We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Tiny Step in the Right Direction

The City of New York is considering banning the sale of soft drinks (soda) in amounts over 16 ounces by vendors under the jurisdiction of the city health department.  The Christian Science Monitor reports (here) that a crowd of supporters and opponents of the proposal packed a recent public hearing on it.  The point remains, of course, that soft drinks are a major health hazard and a primary contributor to the obesity epidemic in the U.S,, especially among children and young people.  On the other hand, research conducted by New York University indicates (here) that the specific New York City proposal will have little if any impact on the actual number of calories consumers consume—and could actually result in an increase in caloric intake if consumers react by drinking more smaller cups either in protest or because they're not satisfied with one 16 oz. serving.  Opponents, of course, are complaining about government interference, but then given the stake the soft drink industry has in contributing to obesity their particular opposition rings hollow.  It is the battle against smoking all over again, and this time the stakes are just as high or higher.

So, why proceed if the benefit to public health will be marginal at best?  The reason is that tiny steps like these are just a beginning, and we have to start somewhere.  In some ways, the debate over measures like this may be as important as the number of calories involved.  It really is a case of cigarettes again, and just as in that case so here there will be denial, anger, and huge push back from a major industry that benefits immensely from the sale of a product dangerous to the public good.  The fight has to be fought.  Amen.