Opinion: A large soda, please

Ryan Sampson

Ryan Sampson

Ryan Sampson is a senior architecture major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

I went to get coffee one evening last week, and despite the fact that I usually order from a small pool of favorites, I stared at the menu contemplating something new. To my horror, the amount of calories in the beverage was neatly printed next to each name. Well, crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is healthy that most people are blissfully ignorant of the calorie content of their favorite foods. But my weeks are rough, and there’s nothing like a grande white chocolate mocha with soy milk to start a long night. I did not want that number in the back of my mind.

These little reminders of what we are putting into our bodies are popping up across the country, and this past week, New York City’s Board of Health voted in favor of taking the war on obesity one step further. Last Thursday, restrictions were placed on the size of sugary drinks that can be served everywhere, from restaurants to ball parks. But will this change anything?

Personally, I think it’s a little ridiculous. I agree that obesity is a big concern, but if you’re going to implement something like this, do it right: The new law doesn’t apply to diet soda, purely because it’s sugar free!

A study conducted over nine and a half years at the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s School of Medicine – dear Lord, that’s a mouthful – found that diet soda drinkers who had at least two diet sodas per day had a waist circumference increase 500 percent greater than those who didn’t drink any diet soda. Studies have also found that diet soda may increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

But hey, at least you can still buy it in a 24-ounce bottle at a Yankees game.

The law also doesn’t apply to refills, nor does it prohibit a customer from buying the same drink twice, making it merely an inconvenience for the determined seeker of a large soda.

Finally, this has threatened something that is sacred to me: Starbucks. The company is currently debating whether it will still be able to sell venti frappuccinos, because while they are full of sugar, they also are made with milk. There is also debate over whether stores will have to allow customers to add their own syrup. That’s completely unnecessary.

Admittedly, these changes may help somehow; only time will tell. But perhaps instead of putting money and effort into restricting a single item, we should consider putting all of these resources toward encouraging a lifestyle change.

The majority of people will not stop drinking soda because of this, so why not instead focus on things like healthier school lunches; better funding for athletic programs, gym classes and extracurricular activities; and making parents see that it is not in fact McDonald’s that has inflated your child, but the choices and mindsets that were installed in them from infancy?

So much more needs to change besides the ability to buy a large drink. Let’s work on that instead.