Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why the Soda Ban Matters

The Columbia Flier has yet again inspired me with an unsigned missive, this time about County Executive Ken Ulman's Executive Order banning the sale of "sugary drinks" on County property.

This is not about the "nanny state".  In fact, I would assume that the actual volume of "sugary drink" sales was minuscule to begin with.  How often in a given day do you use your office's vending machine?  When was the last time you used a vending machine at all?  Sure, the Howard Building soda fountain may be a few spigots down, but die-hards can bring their six-packs from home, which probably saves them a few dimes in the process.

What this is really about is identifying a danger.  I've previously ridiculed the "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors" campaign, and will continue to do so, because our caveman-reptile brains have informed us that thunder is bad news.  Our caveman-reptile brains have told us that sugar is good.  It is quick energy, which the body craves.  Before we made the synthetic foods available today, you had to work for your sugar.  They were the structural components of carbohydrates or mixed in with vitamins in plants.  Our food economy decided to do away with all that "work" and make the sugar accessible directly, in great quantities, and cheap.

Ken Ulman's ban, and the new campaign by the Horizon Foundation, are making a loud statement that sugary drinks are not just "bad for you", they are poisonous.  These drinks will still be available, but with the kind of "noise" that will be generated from this kind of act, parents will have no choice but to be on notice that 1) children should not be drinking Coke/Pepsi; 2) juice is not fundamentally good for you, and is sometimes worse than soda; and 3) there are healthy alternatives other than water.

County Employees, and late night hangers-on at County Council meetings, may be inconvenienced by this ban, but by no means do we have a "right" to buy what we want wherever we want it.  The County is a property owner.  Despite what your righteous indignation may tell you, what we own collectively does not need to meet the objectives of our individual concerns.  This ban is much bigger than that.  The County, and Horizon, are sticking their finger in the eye of the status quo and saying "Wake up!"