Soda Ban In Howard County? Public Health Leader Says No
This is a ‘nanny state issue’ - Howard County Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson.
Howard County, the healthiest county in the state, according to recent data, is unlikely to follow New York City's lead and pursue a soda ban, the county's top public health official told Patch Thursday.
“I do think this goes too far,” Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson said in an interview. “I think it really plays into this nanny state issue--where anything that any public health entity does gets tarred as being a nanny state. In this case, it kind of is.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces. Diet drinks, dairy drinks, fruit juices and alcoholic beverages would not be affected. Large-size sugared drinks would still be sold in grocery stores.
Even though a soda ban isn’t in Howard County’s future, there are other developments related to public health and soda to look out for, according to Beilenson.
- Howard County health officials are looking at “revising the products sold in vending machines” at Howard County government offices, Beilenson said, declining to give further details.
- Health officials also plan to run a Howard County-led “soda-free pledge” campaign similar to one run last year at Talbott Springs Elementary School, this time over the summer with an area work place, he said.
April Snyder, a teacher’s secretary at Talbott Springs Elementary, said she was among the staff who joined with 90 students in the fourth grade last fall to go without soda for 30 days.
The "Soda-Free 30" pledge with the elementary school was announced Oct. 20, 2011, and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Beilenson, and then-Superintendent of Howard County Public School System Dr. Sydney Cousin joined in signing the pledge.
Before Snyder took the soda-free pledge, she said she was drinking about a can of soda per day.
For the first week it was difficult, she said. But then she started to crave water, rather than soda, to quench her thirst.
She gave up soda for the 30 days, but hasn’t touched it since, she said.
“I’m absolutely off soda forever. I would say a lot of staff members are as well. … I don’t buy it at home; my kids are not drinking soda.
“I’ve heard people tell me that I’m worse than a reformed smoker, [I’ll say to them,] ‘Don’t drink that soda, you’re going feel sluggish in an hour.’”
Overall, Beilenson said he supported using “education to drive the free market” in regard to soda, a strategy that he said has been successful in stemming smoking and the consumption of trans fats.
“Sugar-sweetened sodas in particular are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic,” he said. “Forty percent of excess calories in Americans' intake … are attributed to sweetened beverages, the majority of which are sodas.”
Tell us: How much soda do you drink daily? Do you think more should be done to stem soda-drinking in Howard County?