A Supersized Problem: America’s Losing Battle Against Soft Drinks
Overweight Americans place a massive burden on the US health care system, a problem New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes to help solve with a ban on supersized soft drinks. But the highly publicized offensive against sugary sodas has erupted into a debate about personal freedom.
Lloyd Winnecke, the slim mayor of Evansville, Indiana, often watches the “Today Show,” a breakfast show broadcast from Manhattan. There is one episode, in particular, that sticks in his mind. It was June 1, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was sitting in the studio looking cornered. It was the day after Bloomberg had announced a plan to ban supersized soft drinks, and now he was on live TV to celebrate National Donut Day, of all things, as the city’s official patron.
To commemorate the event, the baked-goods maker Entenmann’s was giving away some 2.2 million calories in the form of 7,500 donuts. The irony of Bloomberg’s duel involvement with the soda ban and the donut bonanza was just too tempting for “Today Show” host Matt Lauer to pass up: He made the mayor look like a ridiculous hypocrite.
In Evansville, a city in southern Indiana on a bulgy horseshoe bend of the Ohio River, a two-and-a-half-hour flight west of New York City, Mayor Winnecke began his day a little amused and even gleeful. It was yet another day in America’s confused war on obesity.
It’s clearly a war worth fighting. The enemy is deeply entrenched in the country and wreaking havoc on the civilian population. In Indiana, 65 percent of all adults are overweight or truly, even dangerously obese, and some 30 percent of young people aged 10 to 17 weigh too much or even far too much. Since these extreme numbers coincide with the national average for the United States, they describe a national crisis that is likely to expand to disastrous proportions. In 2030, an estimated 110 million Americans will be obese, an increase of 32 million over current figures. Indeed, some believe that the obesity epidemic could lead to the collapse of the American health care system.