The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted attention away from other health issues that affect Americans. Unlike more obvious threats such as viruses or diseases, there are products and practices that are putting us in grave danger without even realizing. Soda and soft drinks are damaging our health and the environment while the companies that produce them engage in unethical practices. The production and sale of soda within the United States cannot be allowed to continue.
Soda has been a subject of medical concern since the 1940s, when the American Medical Association warned of the high sugar content in soft drinks. Since then, numerous studies conducted by scientific organizations have concluded that in one way or another, soda poses a major health hazard. In a study conducted by Lenny R Vartanian (“Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” published in the “American Journal of Public Health”), data shows that soft drinks result in weight gain, and lesser intake of other nutrients. Additional side effects include severe dental erosion occurring from the acidity of soda, which makes teeth more susceptible to infection (as illustrated through Ran Cheng’s paper, “Dental erosion and severe tooth decay related to soft drinks: a case report and literature review”).
This data is all the more relevant when taking into account recent trends among the American population. According to the CDC, over 42% of the United States suffers from obesity, which can be linked to conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. In addition, obesity disproportionately affects people of color. Even more concerning, the CDC reports that almost 20% of American children are obese. These children will likely suffer from the same issues that obese adults face now: high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, and muscle decay, among the other health conditions previously mentioned.
The next generation of young Americans face many taxing issues, including climate change. Global warming will place a larger and larger financial and medical burden upon humans as time goes on. We need the next generation to be as healthy as possible so they are best equipped to endure climate change and find solutions to help repair our environment.
Companies that produce soft drinks have also come under fire for their unethical practices, including harsh labor practices and industrial pollution and negligence. Many soda companies use plastic bottles for their drinks and other nonbiodegradable materials for packaging. In fact, as reported by Forbes, a plastic waste audit found that Coca-Cola was the largest plastic polluter, followed by Nestle and Pepsico. These three soft drink producing companies are the most prominent plastic polluters in the world. This plastic blocks waterways, gathers in large garbage patches, and breaks down into microplastics which are then consumed by fish. These soda-producing companies are actively harming us, not only with their beverages, but also with the byproducts of the beverages. In addition, companies such as Nestle have received multiple class action lawsuits on the grounds of using child slave labor. These are the companies that we support by consuming soda. Those environmental and labor practices are cruel and dangerous, and by banning the sale of soda, it will lower the amounts of pollution and damage these unethical corporations.
The idea of banning soda is still controversial for many reasons. It is true that companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsico generate billions of dollars per year in profits, benefitting the American economy in the process. However, this economic loss could be countered by a long-term plan, in which soft drinks are phased out of sale and taxed heavily to cut consumption. The same method has been applied to cigarettes and other tobacco products. Heavy taxes are applied to cigarettes, and packaging is designed to show the harmful effects of smoking. While cigarette companies generate large profits as well, the gradual phasing out of cigarette sales means that economic damage is spread out over the course of many years, minimizing the impact. Besides, potential economic damage comes secondary to the well-being of the American people. If we can take action that saves lives, then we should take that action.
The soda industry is undeniably dangerous. The largest issues of our time, namely global warming, the American obesity crisis, and unethical labor are directly tied to soft drink companies. If the United States wants to ensure the well-being of future citizens, then they must take steps to phase out the sale and production of soda. We cannot afford to ignore the facts and data set in stone before us. Trust science and we will reap the benefits.