The American Beverage Association, bowing to pressure from groups concerned about the epidemic of childhood obesity, has recommended limiting the availability of soft drinks in schools. The association's board voted unanimously to work to ensure that vending machines stock only bottled water and juice in elementary schools.
High Schoolers Still Have Soda
However, most elementary schools are already soda free. The group suggested the middle school students should have access to some additional drinks, and high school students have access to all types of drinks, although no more than 50 percent of the vending machine selection would be soft drinks.
Much of the Industry Agrees
The association's recommendation is not binding, but the 20-member board represents 85 percent of the businesses involved in school beverage vending. Coca-Cola and Pepsi also both said they supported the move.
An estimated 9 million schoolchildren are overweight, a number that has doubled since 1980. The number of overweight adolescents has tripled.
How very kind of the soft drink industry to recommend banning soft drinks from elementary schools, which don't sell them anyway.
Actually, this is a step in the right direction, if a very small one. However, they've got a very, very long way to go if they really want to correct the many giant leaps backward that they've encouraged.
For example, recently, a three-year battle to rid Connecticut schools of soda and junk food ended abruptly with a veto by Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, who had only used her veto power on two prior occasions.
The bill passed the General Assembly by a large margin, but Rell, caving to industry pressure, stated that the bill would undermine the longstanding authority of local school districts. She added that it would also undermine the control and responsibility of parents with school-age children.
The real reason was probably a little less noble; Governor Rell's campaign advisor, Patricia LeShane, is the co-founder of the lobbying firm (Sullivan & LeShane) that was hired by Coca-Cola to prevent the proposed legislation.
Oregon lawmakers were considering a strong piece of legislation that aimed to keep soda, candy and fried pastry products out of the schools. The Oregon Soft Drink Association strategically donated $91,000 in campaign contributions to state politicians. Needless to say, the legislation was totally thwarted.
Many pieces of legislation that actually get passed are, after massive industry contributions, watered down to resemble the suggestions you just read about: soft drinks aren't allowed--but only in elementary schools. Sometimes, even that only holds during school hours.
Soft drinks and sweet drinks recently replaced white bread as the leading source of calories in the average American diet; indeed, a sad commentary on the state of our nation's health. But it's no surprise when these addictive substances are being offered to adolescents. If the obesity epidemic is to end, this has to stop.
One of the best and fastest steps you can take to improve your health is one of the easiest: Switch from soft drinks to pure water.