Furthermore, presentation is important. I am convinced that if water had a whole label and nozzle to itself on soda dispensers in restaurants, cafeterias and college dining halls nationwide, it would be consumed more often. More water consumption would mean less soda consumption. Manufacturers and the beverage industry may be resistant to this concept due to a loss in revenue and decrease in diversity of options; thus, legislation would be required in order for it to be mandated.
It is also up to all of us to model behavioral patterns. No matter what we tell children, it is what we do that will have the most enduring effect on their minds, attitudes and actions. For example, it may be tempting to get a soda at a restaurant because of the free refills, but here’s a better deal: asking for a cup of ice water! It’s free, including unlimited refills, and it’s a much healthier option. Another example: when exercising, consume more water and healthy drink options rather than regularly drinking high-calorie, sugary beverages such as Vitamin Water.
Research indicates that SSBs are causing a plethora of serious and urgent health problems in this country and around the world. Now more than ever is the time for policy-makers to intervene by perhaps taxing SSBs, incentivizing healthy choices in schools and increasing the prevalence of health education campaigns while decreasing the number of SSB ads targeted at young children. It will take the assistance of citizens to save children from poor lifestyle choices and a host of long-term medical issues.
It is common to refer to previous generations and remark, “He was a frequent smoker before we figured out how terrible cigarettes really are for the body.” Hopefully, years down the road, we can speak this way about soft drinks. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to rethink what we drink.
Josh Jacobs is a 2011 graduate of Andover High School who is now a sophomore at Yale University in Connecticut. He wrote this piece on the long-term health consequences of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption for his Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food course.