Opinion: Why we should change how we think about soda

Posted on May 2 2017 - 8:00am by Francisco Hernandez

Soda is an often habit-forming product that does not receive as much criticism as it deserves.

Hundreds of gallons of soda, as well as coffee, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, will contribute to entertaining and satisfying our residents and visitors alike. It is clear, though, that the reputation and regulations for some of these products are far more strict than for others.

It makes sense to restrict certain products such as tobacco and alcohol, which can be harmful not only for the person consuming them but also to those around him or her.

But should that still allow soda, a product that has no positive nutritional value, causes long-term health concerns and has scientifically proven addictive qualities, to be so easily available and to lack the warning labels present on cigarette packages and liquor bottles?

For example, our campus is a proud tobacco-free and- besides the occasional exceptions of sports events and registered parties- alcohol-free zone. This is a victory for the health of our student body, but it does not address the well-known consequences of the omnipresent soda.

This highly processed and artificial combination of high fructose corn syrup, water and countless additives keeps pouring out of our soda fountains, bottles and cans with almost no restraints.

In fact, you can even see a cardboard ad of coach Hugh Freeze promoting its consumption in some of the P.O.D. markets around campus.

Soda apologists will say this is a question of supply and demand: if there are people buying it, there should be people supplying it. They will also say that consumers should be able to make their own decisions and that restricting sales would insult the intelligence of buyers.

These sound very similar to the arguments that tobacco lobbies have used in the past.

Besides, if the merchandise someone sells creates an addiction while lacking any nutritional value, shouldn’t there be at least some form of restriction or caution label?

Several studies have already linked soda consumption to dental problems, obesity, kidney damage, diabetes and heart disease. Even diet versions are a cause for concern, for the sodium and potassium benzoates used in many of them are connected to cell damage and premature aging.

Prohibiting, or even restricting, soda sales would perhaps be an overly dramatic and counterproductive measure. Still, we should be more aware of the damaging consequences of drinks that are more products of successful and ubiquitous marketing campaigns than they are even remotely nutritious.

So, next time we judge someone for sneaking away to smoke a cigarette, we should remind ourselves of when we drink soda and think that, maybe, we’re not so different after all.

Francisco Hernandez is a junior international studies major from Valencia, Spain.