In recognition of the month when America celebrates its freedom, we are devoting the first two weeks of July to a review of the ongoing battle for consumer freedom — the threats and the promise. Today, a review of recent soft drink issues.
SIN TAX FOR SIPPING: California has taken a step back from banning soft drinks in schools, but the issue will return. A bill to ban soda sales during school hours failed, but its sponsor promised to revive it next year. Also in California, the sponsor of a recently signed law that bans the sale of foods that do not meet arbitrary standards for fat and sugar content on elementary campuses vows to “remove junk foods from schools in the next four years.”
MORE FIZZ THAN FACT: Soft drinks may be the “cause celebre of the anti-obesity campaign,” writes Rocky Mountain News columnist Mary Winter, but “banning pop machines… won’t solve the obesity problem.” Twelve states are mulling laws “to tax or ban pop sales at schools,” but “studies by the Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy found no link between pop consumption and obesity in kids 12-18. In fact, the biggest pop drinkers were often the thinnest kids. Critics say it’s just one more intrusion by the Food Police.”
BLAME GAME: Blaming soft drinks for obesity is inaccurate, according to recent testimony before the New York State Assembly Health Committee. “There is no nutritional reason why soft drinks, water, teas, sports drinks and juices should not be made available to students and faculty” in schools… “All these beverages, consumed in moderation, fall within the Dietary Guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Dietetic Association.”
CAN’T-UCKY: Kentucky is considering legislation that would ban candy bars, snacks and sodas from school vending machines — and the state is using obesity as an excuse. The intrusion could spread beyond schools. One administrator declares: “We have students for six hours of the day. ”Maybe we should look at the other 18 hours of the day and see what the kids are eating.” But at least one superintendent is skeptical: “Are we going to have the candy bar police?”
WHAT’S NEXT?: Before it failed, The Orange County Register weighed in on the California soft drink ban proposal: “These matters are the responsibility of parents… Sodas and fast food are becoming the new tobacco, something busybodies want to harp about, ban and impose ‘sin’ taxes on… What next, a Big Mac tax? And what happened to free choice and personal responsibility for dietary habits?”