A new nationwide poll was released last week that assesses the public’s perception of obesity, its relation to health issues and the role of government in addressing the problem. Two findings jump off the page:Eight out of 10 people cite too much TV and computer time as the most important reason for high rates of obesity. There is little support for policies that would constrain consumer choices such as limits on the amount or type of food that can be purchased or taxes on unhealthy foods or drinks.
The poll was conducted and funded by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. According to respondents, obesity is cited as second only to cancer as the most serious health issue in America. Among the solutions they support are policies that would add more physical activity time in schools and provide information about healthy choices.
The AP/NORC poll is comparable to other national polls regarding taxing or regulating sugar-sweetened beverages. In March 2012, a Harris Interactive Poll asked if people supported putting a new tax on soft drinks with “high sugar content” and 62 percent said, “No.”
In June 2012, an Ipsos poll conducted for Reuters asked if people would support a restriction on the size of sugary drinks, and 64 percent said, “No.” Seventy-one percent said they didn’t believe that limiting soda cup sizes will have an impact on obesity rates.
Jillian Michaels of TV’s “The Biggest Loser,” is no fan of sweetened beverages, but she’s part of the strong majority of Americans who believe what we eat and drink is a personal choice. The New York Post reports that Michaels opposes Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sweetened beverages over 16 ounces. “People don’t like to be controlled,” Michaels told The Post. “You can’t really force people into decisions. It’s about freedom of choice.”
Reflecting the opinion of a majority of Americans, Michaels said, “I think [the Bloomberg policy] has great intentions, but I feel like American people don’t like to be controlled. I think they like to be supported.”
American’s beverage industry is working to support consumers by making calories easier to find on the front of ever can, bottle and pack we produce. If we want to get serious about obesity, it starts with education – not laws and regulation.