New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban supersize soda cups and limit most sugary beverages to 16 ounces. Rasmussen Reports did a national telephone survey regarding the ban, which may take effect March 2013.
Here are the straight facts of the survey results:
The survey found that 65 percent of American adults opposed a law like this, while 24 percent favored it and 11 percent were undecided. Nine percent believe the government has the constitutional authority to impose such a ban, while 85 percent disagree. Women are more supportive of the measure than men, but both groups largely agree that the ban is unconstitutional. Younger adults are also more supportive of the ban, as are government employees.
One of the more interesting findings was that adults with children oppose a ban on supersize drinks even more than those who don't have children. And here we are supposed to be more conscious of our children's health. There are many possible implications, of course. It would be reasonable to suggest that parents may buy one supersize drink to share among several kids rather than buy three or four smaller cups. This is pure speculation, and it doesn't take into account the fact that a health-conscious parent would still rather pay for a few low-fat milk "jugs" or juice boxes. And you can't get those supersized for the entire family.
It's funny how 85 percent of the polled Americans want to shoot down the ban because it is, in their opinion, unconstitutional. We freely mistake appeals to emotion as rational arguments — arguments like whether or not a ban is constitutional — until constitutionality actually serves our end. Then all of a sudden we remember our country was founded on principles of integrity, and we cry foul. We argue back and forth like children. But, as we in our early 20s are beginning to figure out, adults are remarkably like children. They are selfish and solipsistic, they throw each other under the bus, and darnit if they can't have their supersized Diet Coke.
Quietly and sadly, one might think that our bodies are becoming so conditioned to junk food that we may actually need it. There was a child who had a proclivity for sodium that was off the charts — he literally ate handfuls of salt, which is generally considered bad for children — so his parents greatly reduced his sodium intake. He became ill, and doctors couldn't figure out the cause. Everything was normal, including his sodium levels. He died shortly thereafter because, it is now known, he had a mutation that required extreme amounts of sodium to survive.
It's not so hard to picture our entire culture heading in this direction. We will become so dependent on sugar and salt and unhealthy fats that our diets will require higher and higher levels of them to sustain us, and in turn we would be creating a standard of obesity. It would be one thing if people could counter with, what's so bad about being obese? But we know the problems associated with obesity, even if the topic is sometimes sugarcoated.
Admittedly, this is a bleak image of the future, and large-scale changes in the makeup of a society don't necessarily happen so quickly. But conditioning is a powerful thing. Eating turkey burgers a few dozen times is enough to make a person enjoy them, or perceive that they enjoy them, or at least cringe the next time they bite into a red, dripping steak burger. Just look at that scenario's opposite, and there you have the majority of Americans.
We like food that isn't always good for us. So what? What really is good for us? It's so fiercely contested; so many studies go back and forth on the actual benefits of acai berries, which have a more dubious origin than most people realize, and which probably, in the end, are no more "super" than blueberries or strawberries. And these studies always seem to be melded inseparably to biases, so what can we really take away if we genuinely want to improve our health?
Much of this is cynical, and I also know that a ban on supersize sodas isn't going to change much, given that gaining weight involves so many more factors than just sugar intake. But if we could be free of our cynicism for a moment, we would embrace a government measure that on the surface actually has its constituents' interests, whether they like it or not, at heart.
— Robbie Hargett is a graduate in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.