First it was energy drinks.
Now, local officials are hot on the tracks of another menace threatening the well-being of Illinoisans: sugary drinks.
Following the trend set by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cook County has jumped on the bandwagon of the charge to limit Americans’ intake of soft drinks in an effort to fight wide waistlines.
The Cook County Health Department joined the national campaign lead by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CPSI, which claims that soda and other sugary drinks have “unsafe levels of high-fructose corn syrup or other added sugar.” CPSI filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration earlier this week urging the agency to “identify” a safe level for added sugars in beverages.
This is only part of the county’s overall crusade against sugary drinks. The leaders at the health department developed the “Rethink Your Drink” campaign, complete with its own website emphasizing the negative effects of consuming drinks with too much sugar. This is the county’s plan of attack for remedying the “obesity epidemic,” which the health department says affects more than two-thirds of adults and one in four high school students in suburban Cook County.
In 2010, Cook County received almost $16 million in federal stimulus money for an “anti-obesity, pro-soda tax stimulus program” that benefited multiple organizations throughout the county. The goal of this funding was to:
• Increase availability, accessibility and demand for nutritional options
• Decrease opportunities for excess caloric intake from unhealthy foods or drinks
• Increase availability and utilization of safe places to be physically active
Why is government spending time and money worrying about choices Americans are capable of handling on their own? “Actions have consequences” isn’t a cliché for nothing; people make their own decisions every day about what they put in their bodies – some good, some bad.
But when Illinoisans don’t make decisions lawmakers like, local officials often feel the need to take matters into their own hands. Even before the proposed energy drink ban in January, Chicago Ald. George Cardenas proposed a tax on sugary beverages ranging from $0.15 to $0.30.
On the flipside, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had no problem taking $3 million from Coca Cola Co. to fund community-building fitness programs.
Perhaps the only common thread here is money – and we know that all levels of government here in Illinois need more of it.