March 30 2012

Mayor Cornett's Wrongheaded Anti-Soda Campaign

Julie Gunlock

There’s a certain group of people who become insufferable, lecturing bores when they lose weight.  Self-obsessed and self-congratulatory, these folks talk of nothing else than their superhuman power of self-control in the face of ice cream and cookies. One such person is Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett who in 2008 lost a bunch of weight and celebrated his achievement by telling his constituents they were fat and needed to go on a diet.  

That’s nice.

This week, the Mayor is back to talking obesity; signing a proclamation designating April 2-8 as “Rethink Your Drink OKC” Days. The proclamation encourages residents to replace sodas with healthier, low-calorie options for one week to improve the health of the community.  The Mayor is also asking local restaurants to limit marketing of unhealthy food to children and youth.

The Mayor clearly wants to look like he’s working to reduce obesity among his constituents and his slightly annoying tone aside, people are no-doubt inspired by what he went through to lose weight and stay healthy.  But the Mayor shouldn’t be fooled by the anti-soda rhetoric out there.  The research shows that government anti-soda efforts simply do nothing to help the intended demographic—the obese—because obese individuals overwhelmingly choose to drink diet soft drinks instead of sodas containing sugar.  In addition, experiment after experiment to lower soda consumption—from taxing sodas to removing soda machines from schools—have failed to sway people’s beverage choices.  These policy experiments have, however, raised prices and limited choices for Americans who should be free to make their own decisions about the food and drinks they like. 

Furthermore, Mayor Cornett needs to read up on the latest data which shows people are already decreasing their consumption of soda. In fact, soda consumption has been on the wane for a full seven years. Despite this, governments at all levels continue to develop useless anti-soda campaigns (using taxpayer dollars, natch). I recently wrote about this here.

There’s also the junk science aspect of this proclamation that suggests soda is harmful. It simply isn’t. Soda is 90 percent water and is a perfectly acceptable way to stay hydrated.  People understand that they need to consume a variety of foods and beverages.  Promotions, like Mayor Cornett’s latest anti-soda campaign, will do nothing to solve the so-called “obesity crisis.”  But it will harm the Oklahoma beverage industry that employs thousands of Oklahomans. 

One wishes politicians would pay a little bit more attention to employment issues rather than trying to control what people eat and drink.

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