It's a controversial move that has some soda lovers fizzing. City leaders in Boston are considering banning the sale of sodas at city hall and all city-owned buildings.
Boston health officials were quick to clarify that you can still drink soda at city buildings. "There's no talk of a ban of sugar-sweetened beverages in any municipal building," said Barbara Ferrer, Boston Public Health Commissioner. "It's just a question of what gets sold in our municipal buildings in our vending machines."
The city recently received a $12 million federal grant to fight obesity and this is one option it's considering. But it isn't sitting well with some who say the government has no place making these kinds of decisions. "People should have their freedom to do what they want to do," said John Pacheco who's against the ban. "We don't want government to dictate people's lives about purchasing various things," said Gene Babon who's also against it. "If something is legal to purchase, we should be able to purchase it."
Many more people are sounding off on the proposal online. One reader writes in to our Boston affiliate, "Thank you for looking out for us Big Brother...I am so grateful to you for narrowing my choices of beverages down to fluoride tainted, filtered, bottled tap water or the aspartame laced poison diet beverage of my choosing. Sure they will lower my IQ, give me cancer, and make me sterile...but at least I won't ever get fat."
Health officials don't appear surprised by the reaction. "Of course there will be resistance," Ferrer said. "Part of our job, before we implement any measure that's going to meet a lot of resistance is to talk to people."
This isn't the first time soda has been in the spotlight. Here in New York, State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines and some state lawmakers have been pushing for a tax on sweet, sugary drinks. The proposal would have added a penny per ounce to the price of soda and sugary drinks with less than 70 percent fruit juice. It's been projected to generate $1 billion annually when fully implemented and reduce consumption of the drinks by 15 percent.
People on both sides of the issue continue trying to drum up public support. Supporters have pushed the tax as a way to combat obesity while bolstering funding for state health programs. But others oppose the plan, setting up this website for people to voice their concerns. In the end, New York's proposed soda tax failed to gain enough support.
Lawmakers have waded into these treacherous waters before. New York City became the first city in the country to ban trans fats at restaurants and California was the first state in the nation to ban trans fats .
Want some interesting perspective this topic? Read this article written by a Harvard University professor in the New York Times. It's worth your time.
Whether you support it or not, the question remains -- would it even work? A study done last spring finds small taxes on soda do little to reduce soft drink consumption or prevent childhood obesity, but larger levies probably would. Read more by clicking here .
And yet another study by USDA researchers finds taxing sugary drinks could lead to adults consuming 37 fewer calories per day or 3.8 pounds of body weight over a year and children consuming 43 fewer calories per day or 4.5 pounds over a year. Read more about that study here .
Drinks high in sugar have been a target recently and are being pulled from schools across the country. In fact, earlier this year, the American Beverage Association released a report revealing a 95 percent drop in sales of full-calorie soft drinks to schools between 2004 and 2009.
There's no denying that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 72.5 million adults in the U.S. are obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and early death. And it's impacting the next generation too. An estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 are considered obese.
Something else to consider...obesity isn't cheap. In fact, it's very costly. According to the CDC, recent estimates of medical costs linked to obesity are as high as $147 billion a year...yes that's billion with a b.
But the question now is how to we end this epidemic? Is pulling soda from public buildings and schools the solution? Would a soda tax get this problem under control? If not, what would? Do we need to change our culture of eating altogether? Are massive portion sizes to blame? Or is it that many of us live more sedentary lives these days? And what role should government play in all of this? Is it an excellent way to raise revenue while helping people lead healthier lives? Or are they infringing on people's rights? Do Americans have enough self control to do it themselves? Or do we need regulations to help us make smarter choices? Leave your comments below.