A little over a month ago, former president Bill Clinton appeared on the Piers Morgan show and shared some insight into his vegan diet and his support for Michael Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban on super-sized sodas in New York.
The ban is meant to fight obesity and Type II diabetes, both real and dangerously growing problems. As Bloomberg has said, “Obesity is becoming the single biggest health problem in America and will kill more people than smoking in a few years,” and as Clinton notes, “We’ve got this explosion of diabetes in America among young people…for the first time, Type II diabetes is showing up in 9-year-olds and among the Baby Boomers who are retiring.”
Although some people are adamant that the government will exert too much control with this mandate, Bloomberg believes that the government should “improve the health and longevity of its citizens,” and restricting super-size portions of unhealthy foods is a reasonable measure. In terms of whether the ban illustrates excessive government involvement or not, part of me thinks that the if the government can restrict potentially harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana, then the government can restrict toxic, mood-altering, and addictive “foods” such as soda. Yes, the ingredients in soda really are toxic to our health. The story about the tooth that dissolved in coke may have turned out to be a myth, but there is some truth there: the chemicals and acids in coke can wreak havoc on our teeth, bones and other internal functions, and plenty of studies show how sugary sodas cause diabetes. And in the long run, increasing rates of diabetes increases the cost of health care—“of the trillion dollars [Americans spend on healthcare]…about $200 billion of it is completely related to diabetes and its dependent consequences, which is a function of how we eat,” says Clinton.
Clinton certainly understands that health is a function of how we eat and is proactive about consuming food mindfully. In addition to expressing his support for the super-size soda ban, his interview on the Piers Morgan show reminds us of the health benefits of a vegan diet. After a heart attack and several bypass surgeries, he began the vegan diet in 2011 in order to improve his health, and he “wanted to see if [he] could live to be a grandfather.” Clinton now has noted significant weight loss, increased energy, and healthy blood test results.
I love that Clinton is a vocal advocate of healthful eating, but part of me is still skeptical about the proposed soda ban. How much will the law actually affect the people who are regularly consuming super-sized soft drinks? Soft drink consumption is only one part of an unhealthy lifestyle, and if we begin to pass laws on individual foods, I can imagine it would become difficult to draw the line somewhere. The government should definitely spread awareness about deadly habits, but in the end, shouldn’t the individual be held responsible for their consumption choices? I am no expert in politics or economics, but instead of restriction laws, would there be another way to make the cost of the drink reflect the huge cost to society, which would naturally alter incentives?
The next hearing on the soda ban is set for July 24 and the final vote in September. So, this time next year, my refusal of huge sugary sodas might not only be a personal choice, but also a mandate in New York. (And if that is true, maybe the government can ban meat…and dairy…and eggs…and all the other products that are not only health-damaging but involve the exploitation of living beings…right?)