California bill proposes labels on sugary drinks

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Soda can be harmful to a person’s health when consumed without responsibility. This harm is unavoidable.  Access to sugary beverages is more prominent than ever, so does the public need to be warned about soda’s harmful effects? California is trying to decide that now.


Cartoon by Stephanie Kirkling

A bill has been introduced in the California State Senate that would require a warning label on any sugary beverage that has at least 75 calories in a 12-ounce serving. Does the Golden State’s government not trust its citizens to make choices regarding their own health? I understand that many Americans are ignorant of many things, but the fact that soda in large quantities is not healthy is common knowledge. For that matter, what is healthy in large amounts?

In 2007 an article by NBC News reported the tragic death of a 28-year-old woman from California. The woman died after drinking too much water for a radio station contest. Should we then, in response to a genuine tragedy, put warning labels on water?

The hypothetical warning on the soda would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

This is far from the first time that warning labels stating the obvious have been put on products. For example, there is the “Caution: Hot” label that was placed on McDonald’s coffee or the “Avoid dropping out of window” warning sticker that was placed on the box of portable air conditioning units. Those, however, were made solely to shield a company from liability for the actions of people who are probably too unintelligent to purchase these products in the first place.

The government of the state of California is not trying to protect itself from being sued but instead is showing that it has no faith in its own citizens. To want to inform people of the risks of a product is understandable, but placing a health warning on the packaging of the product is no different than the Surgeon General’s warning that appears on every single advertisement and package of tobacco products. So we must ask ourselves this question: Is soda as dangerous as tobacco products?

The risk of cancer, heart disease and the plethora of other possible side effects associated with tobacco products is much more serious than tooth decay and possible weight gain. The same side effects are equally present in candy, ice cream and McDonald’s food, if not enjoyed responsibly. Although calorie counts on all foods have been added, I do not see the warning label on those either.

It is highly irregular and inappropriate to compare soda—something that is enjoyed by millions of Americans and not harmful if used sparingly—to a series of products that give you a shorter lifespan from the first usage. If soda is as dangerous and deadly as tobacco products, then why is an over glorified ad campaign expected to turn the public away from what are presumably California’s most popular beverages?

After that, perhaps the government will mandate the Atkins diet for all of its citizens, so they can cut back on their carbs as well.

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