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Monday, July 7, 2014

Debate on sugary drinks

      So we thought the debate over sugary drinks was just limited to New York City but the debate has now moved to our humble County.  The difference of our situation is that it only applies to County facilities or County sponsored events like the recent July Fourth celebration.  Many of us have tried to make healthier choices with what we eat and drink.  Years ago I stopped buying my favorite drink, Diet Coke with lime.  With all the added chemicals and health issues (like Coke being able to remove paint!) I decided that lime flavored sparkling water was probably a healthier choice.  The effort to encourage people to make healthier choices comes down to the line between "encouragement" and "requirement."   You can usually assume that requiring an action will get some push back.
      This debate reminds me of the effort to provide healthier foods for school lunches.  I remember the school lunches of my youth.  Hamburgers and beets, pizza and macaroni salad and meatloaf and green beans.  Do you think we ever ate the beets, macaroni salad or green beans???  99% of those went in the trash.  Ask any teacher today and you will probably hear the same think about items going in the trash today.  Efforts to provide a healthier diet for school children has led to Howard County receiving the second highest score in the Country from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 2012.  The choices of salad bars and non sugary drinks at our schools is commendable.
     Getting back to the public policy issue of limiting choices in our daily activities it seems that it is hard to find a happy medium of where the lines should be drawn.  Most of us can probably agree that the lines need to be drawn in areas of public safety.  Areas of choices in health are a little trickier.  Does the fact that we all pay a public cost for people having accidents give us the right to require wearing helmets riding a motorcycle or a seat belt while driving a car or a car seat for children or how about the registering of a gun? The requirement to register to buy a gun has even had a push back in Georgia and other conservative states to pass "carry" laws that permit citizens to carry firearms just about anywhere.  Needless to say Georgia is entering some interesting times with this "guns everywhere" law.   What's going on in Georgia makes our Howard County sugary drinks controversy seem fairly tame and civil.
      So after considering the different angles on the sugary drink issue I would certainly support a public educational effort to encourage all of us to choose a healthy life style and make it easy to make the right choices.  If we care about the health of children an educational effort directed at helping children make these choices should seem to make sense.  This combined with families learning to make healthy choices would seem to be a very "Howard County thing."

P.S.
    The First Lady has been mocked by the Conservative Right for her campaign to encourage healthier lifestyles for children.  Health issue aside, is there anything about the Obama Administration that the Right wouldn't oppose?   Maybe if Michelle Obama would have chosen a child literacy campaign like Laura Bush the Right would have come out with a freedom to be illiterate campaign.

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