Thursday, March 7, 2013

199. Soda's bad, but a ban is a bad idea

In New York, the debate rages on about the ban on soda. At the moment, it has been held up by a New York State judge and it is unlikely that an appeal will be successful.

I have long had a battle with soda, essentially addicted to the combination of carbonation, sugar and caffeine. When I was little, I used to volunteer to get soda for my parents. Bottles back then, I would load up the glass with ice-enabling a few more leftover sips for myself.

The fact is I love soda, regular more than diet, but either is better than neither, and I could easily drink a twelve pack every other day. Nothing is more refreshing after a long workout and I never shied away from drinking it first thing in the morning to get me going. I drank it like others drink coffee.

One of the best things about eating at restaurants was always the unlimited refills. I like almost all types of soda, I was not loyal to Coke or Pepsi, orange and root beer is good too, and I often just bought whichever was on sale. In the worst of my addiction or when I was studying for a law school exam, I would go out at 2:00 am and buy a two liter-and drink it all before I fell asleep.

Undoubtedly, even as a kid, soda contributed to my weight issues. The thousand or so extra calories each week is difficult to overcome as you get older. Many studies suggest that diet soda is actually more of a hindrance to losing weight than regular soda. With the nation's increasing obesity problem, it's not a surprise that soda has been identified as one of the causes.

The question is one of government responsibility and asks when should government be expected to step in to act in the best interest of its citizens-and when that obligation infringes on the rights of citizens to make their own decisions.

It is a difficult line to consider--balancing public safety and the freedom of choice. We have seen the same question in the past with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. In fact, there is a national debate whether to legalize medical marijuana as the right to choose one's own method of treatment. Some businesses, ironically, find themselves on both sides of the perspective--selling soda, and paying for healthcare costs.

To be fair to soda, there are also many other unhealthy foods. At the hospital not too long ago, I was amused that they did not sell regular soda but offered single serving cheese trays-loaded with an unconsciousable amount of calories, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats. As a measure of consistency, the infamous "slippery slope," and economic interest, where should government step in? People will almost always choose the right to make their own decisions.

From the beginning, I did not agree with the ban on soda-nor have I ever suggested that they should stop selling steaks, cheese or ice cream either. I think that health should be shaped through nutrition education-unbiased and without the pressure of special interest groups.

As a nation, we had better start getting our act together. Our healthcare system is unsustainable-and there needs to be a shift to prevention, rather than treatment. It is not easy and I do not mean to understate the challenge; many of us have habits that go back to our childhood.

Most of last year, I abstained from any soda, regular or diet, and drank more water than at any other time in my life. After a bit of a relapse around August, when I began drinking "a few here and there," I drank about six cans of soda at the Cleveland Air Show on Labor Day weekend. Realizing that I was back on the wrong track, I have not had one since.

I consider it my personal ban on soda.

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