Controversies in Obesity – Ban or Educate
(Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are not those of the OAC and its leadership. The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.)
This past week I attended The Obesity Society’s (TOS) annual meeting in San Antonio, TX. For those of you not familiar with this meeting, it’s a professional-focused meeting where leaders and experts in the field of obesity, weight bias, nutrition and more come together to present data, learn about latest obesity trends and more.
While at the meeting, I spent some time walking through the posters section. Posters are where researches present their data on a specific study. The posters presented at this meeting ranged from the impact of sugary beverages on weight to bariatric surgery weight-loss expectations. Working in the field of obesity for more than seven years now, I will say that the poster sessions at meetings such as TOS can often be dwarfed by elaborate exhibit booths with jazzy music playing; however, the posters often provide some of the most valuable information a meeting such as this has to offer.
Walking through the posters, there was no doubt that “Sugary Sweetened Beverages and Obesity” was a popular research topic this year. And, most of the posters showed a strong link between sugary beverages and increased obesity rates. This got me thinking. “Is a soda ban the right way to go?” As many of you know, New York City recently passed a ban prohibiting restaurants, sports venues and movie theaters from selling soda in containers larger than 16 ounces. Now, I am sure a lot of you reading this are thinking, “Yes, a ban is the right way to go. Look at the data between obesity and soda.”
Okay, point taken, but is banning it the right way to change behavior?
- What’s stopping someone from buying two sodas?
- What stops someone from getting a refill?
- What stops someone from buying a soda of any size from a store prior to entering a theater (minus the theater’s policy that prohibits outside snacks)?
The answer – nothing. Absolutely nothing. So, back to my original question, “Is a soda ban the right way to go?” I asked this question to a personal friend and OAC member and he said, “Yes, it will work because it’s often extremely difficult to change public behavior.” Okay, I see his point clearly. I mean, let’s look at smoking. You have a label on the side of a pack of cigarettes that explicitly states, “Smoking causes cancer.” Period. Yet, I still see dozens of people daily enjoying their cigarettes, while I unavoidably inhale their second-hand smoke (which is another blog post in and of itself). Does this mean we ban cigarettes? Studies show that smoking has been on the decline in recent years, but why? Is it the label? Is it because almost every state outside of Nevada and a few others don’t allow it in restaurants, office buildings, etc.? OR, is it because of education?
We’ve all heard of the Truth campaign and I am going to go out on a limb and say that everyone reading this blog post knows cigarettes cause cancer, but do they know that sugary drinks are linked to obesity? Do they know why excess sugar and empty calories can negatively impact an individual’s health? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I most certainly see more individuals consuming sugary sweetened beverages than smoking, so if they’re bad enough for NYC to ban sales of them in certain sizes, then why don’t we put equally as much pressure on government nationwide to educate the public (especially children) on the dangers of sugary sweetened beverages? In my opinion, this would make any ban on sodas a lot easier to swallow (no pun intended).
In my opinion, make no mistake about it – knowledge IS power.
What do you think?
Think about it…