Soft Drinks and Health

In 2013, the U.S Board of Health placed a ban on sales of what ittermed “super-sized sugary drinks” (Bittman 1). These drinksinclude sodas manufactured by leading soft-drink companies such asCoca-Cola and Pepsi. According to health specialists, the amount ofsugar found in these drinks poses a health risk to the public. Assuch, the ban was believed to be the best lasting option availablefor the country to protect its citizens from the negative effects ofthe beverages, such as obesity and failed metabolic functions. Thishas led to bans and regulations on the drinks. However, some peoplecite the freedom of choosing what they would or would not drink, aslong as it is legal, while others support such bans and ask for moreregulations to tame the same. However, making informed choices aboutthe issue is the best way forward. This paper looks at the problem ofsugar in soft drinks, evaluates existing solutions, and proposes asolution to solve the issue.

Backgroundof problem

Health professionals and lawmakers have discussed the problem of theamount of sugar in soft drinks for a while. It has been establishedthat taking too much sugary beverages puts one at a risk of gainingexcessive weight and in the process, developing type 2 diabetes(Malik 2477). This is a disease, which reduced the ability of thebody to properly regulate the amount of sugar in the system, oftenresulting in other complications such as blindness and impotence. Some of the most vulnerable groups are minors, who have little or noinformation regarding the negative impacts of the same. A studyestablished that a child’s risk of becoming obese increases byabout 60% when they are used to taking sugary drinks on daily basis.Similarly, in adults, drinking a 20-ounce bottle of sugary beverageevery day results in gaining around 25 pounds every year (Malik2280). Given this information and statistics, there have been anumber of efforts to regulate the sale of sugary soft drinks to themasses.

Oneof the solutions to that has been proposed is the Sugary DrinksPortion Cap rule, which is famously known as the Soda Ban (Marinerand Annas 1763). This ban was first imposed by the State of New York,with the effort of limiting the size of soft drinks that weremanufactured and sold. The sale of the targeted soft drinks waslimited to less than 16 ounces. Given this ban, all restaurants andother outlets providing the drinks were barred from exceeding the setlimit. While this regulation attracted support, it was faulted bymany people. One of the weaknesses of this solution is that itoversteps the boundaries of the authorities, by violating the freedomof choice of the citizens. This solution has a loophole in that itcan be countered in the court of law and be defeated. The ban istheoretical, and not practical. It is impossible to limit people tojust 16 ounces of soda, if they so wished to take more. For instance,one can buy a smaller amount at a given restaurant, and move on tothe next and buy more, probably exceeding the limit.

Thesecond solution that has been suggested is imposing high tax onsugary soft drinks. According to Fletcher et al, the federalgovernment should move in and help by increasing the tax on theseproducts, as a way of limiting their sale (1375). This solution wasbased on the results of a study in The New England Journal ofMedicine, which indicated that the Americans now consume about threetimes more sugary soft drinks than they did three decades ago(Mariner and Annas 1764). This increase was associated with theincreased rate of income, and consequent growing purchasing power.However, imposing high taxes on these drinks would discourageconsumption by decreasing the purchasing power. However, the mainproblem with this solution is that taxing is a financial undertaking,which would further complicate the proposed health-care reforminitiative. Additionally, Pomeranz et al say that over the past onedecade, there has been a significant decrease of soft drink sales,without such taxes, and at the same time, the obesity rates have gonehigh (255). As such, it becomes hard to convince the people thatindeed the products are to blame for their condition.

Proposedsolution

This paper proposes a solution, which is based on going to the rootof the problem. When keenly observed, the root of the problem is lackof knowledge about the problem in the society. Pomeranz et al saysfew people are aware of things affecting their mental health (255).Most people also come out after suffering from their lifestylessaying that they were not aware of what was slowly affecting them. Assuch, it is proposed that the government, in collaboration with otherstakeholders, initiate massive campaigns to teach the public aboutthe negative effects of sugary drinks on their bodies. By doing this,the public will be educated on how to make informed choices, withouthaving to be forced to decide, as is the case with the existing bansand regulations. Additionally, this style of solution has beenadopted in a number of states, such as Illinois’ education anddirect-action organization and California’s Network for HealthyCalifornia (Kick the Can 1).

Homikargues that public health campaigns are not effective, because theydo not produce direct results (86). According to him, the bodies thatrun these campaigns have failed to yield better results than theofficial bans and regulations imposed by the authorities. However,many scholars and psychologists have agreed that the best solution tomental health problems is public education, mainly because itimproves the peoples’ awareness of the situations surrounding themand their implications. Additionally, educating the public initiatesa sense of self-responsibility and influences people to make informedchoices about their life habits. Thus, instead of imposing solutionson the people, it would be better to teach them and help them makethe self-inspired decisions.

Conclusion

Scientists and other health professionals have proved the negativeimpacts of sugary beverages. Today, it is no question that theseproducts are partly responsible for some of the biggest healthproblems in the country, such as obesity and diabetes. Given this, anumber of legislative and health-based solutions have been proposed.These solutions have helped to slightly decrease the intensity of theproblem. However, based on their nature of application, thesepolicies have been faulted. This paper thus proposes a solution,which solves the problem by going back to the root cause,unawareness. Teaching the public about the negative effects of thesugary beverages would help them make self-inspired decisions, andthus, promote their personal health.

Works Cited

Bittman,Mark. “Banning the Big Gulp”. New York Times. 19 March2013. Web. 14 July, 2015

Fletcher, Jason M., David Frisvold,and Nathan Tefft. &quotTaxing soft drinks and restricting access tovending machines to curb child obesity.&quot&nbspHealthAffairs (2010): 10-1377.Print.

Hornik, Robert, ed.&nbspPublichealth communication: Evidence for behavior change.Routledge, 2002. Print.

Kickthe Can. Educational Campaigns. 2015. Web. 14 July 2015.

Malik, Vasanti S., et al.&quotSugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome andtype 2 diabetes A meta-analysis.&quot&nbspDiabetescare&nbsp33.11(2010): 2477-2483. Print.

Mariner, Wendy K., and George J.Annas. &quotLimiting “Sugary Drinks” to Reduce Obesity—WhoDecides?.&quot New England Journal of Medicine 368.19 (2013):1763-1765. Print.

Pomeranz, Jennifer L., Christina R.Munsell, and Jennifer L. Harris. &quotEnergy drinks: an emergingpublic health hazard for youth.&quot&nbspJournalof public health policy&nbsp34.2(2013): 254-271.