Sen. Mon­ning’s soda bill does not make us a ‘kooky’ nanny state

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion -

o ahead and scoff, Fox News.

You too, Orange County Reg­is­ter.

To you, state Sen. Bill Mon­ning’s lat­est “kooky” ef­fort to keep sug­ary drinks like soda and fruit juice out of the mouths of babes is an­other in­fringe­ment on par­ents’ (and res­tau­rants’) rights. That’s a lot of baloney. Mon­ning’s bill, which now sits on the gover­nor’s desk, would re­quire res­tau­rants that sell combo meals for kids to of­fer wa­ter, plain milk or a nondairy al­ter­na­tive as the bev­er­age choices, rather than soft drinks or sug­ary juices full of empty calo­ries.

That’s it.

This does not ban res­tau­rants from serv­ing soda to kids, as some news out­lets ini­tially claimed.

It is not a so­cial­ist plot to strip par­ents of their rights; they would still be able to pur­chase what­ever they want for their chil­dren, though they may have to en­dure some judg­men­tal eye rolls from nearby cus­tomers.

And it’s not some wild idea lim­ited to “Nan­nyFor­nia”; sim­i­lar laws al­ready have been passed or are be­ing con­sid­ered in other lo­ca­tions around the na­tion, though Cal­i­for­nia’s would be the first statewide reg­u­la­tion.

Mon­ning’s bill is a small — very small — step in tran­si­tion­ing us away from some­thing that health ex­perts agree is re­ally, re­ally bad for us.

While we haven’t sup­ported all of our lo­cal sen­a­tor’s ef­forts against Big Soda — we op­posed Mon­ning’s at­tempts to pass a statewide soda tax, for ex­am­ple — we can sup­port a law that’s specif­i­cally tar­geted at pro­mot­ing the health of young chil­dren.

It’s not go­ing to solve an obe­sity cri­sis over- night, but it’s one of many ef­forts — such as health­ier school lunches and in­creased em­pha­size on ex­er­cise — that add up over time.

As we see it, this is mostly about rein­ing in slick mar­ket­ing cam­paigns that can con­trib­ute to get­ting kids hooked on sug­ary drinks at a very young age — some­thing that can set them up for a life­time of prob­lems like di­a­betes, obe­sity and tooth de­cay.

Now, wa­ter or milk will have the place of honor in pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als — in­stead of those en­tic­ing pic­tures of fizzy cola or orange soda.

Sev­eral restau­rant chains, in­clud­ing McDo- nald’s, Jack in the Box, Wendy’s and Burger King, al­ready have switched to health­ier bev­er­ages as their de­fault op­tion — good for them — but ac­cord­ing to a 2016 sur­vey by Sci­ence in the Pub­lic In­ter­est, a ma­jor­ity of chains con­tinue to of­fer so­das as part of their kids’ meals.

With enough pres­sure from par­ents and health ad­vo­cates, we be­lieve those hold-out res­tau­rants would even­tu­ally pull so­das from their kids’ meals.

But why wait? This leg­is­la­tion would fast­track a small but ben­e­fi­cial change; raise more aware­ness about the harm­ful ef­fects of sug­ary drinks on chil­dren’s health; and re­in­force par­ents’ ef­forts to en­cour­age healthy eat­ing.

It would also fi­nally give Sen. Mon­ning a small vic­tory in his years-long cam­paign to wean us off soda — or to at least make us rec­og­nize what it does to our bod­ies.

We urge Gov. Brown to sign the Mon­ning’s leg­is­la­tion with­out de­lay.

JEFF CHIU AP

State Sen. Bill Mon­ning’s lat­est bill would reg­u­late the bev­er­ages of­fered in spe­cial kids’ meals.

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