America’s leading beverage companies have been making products that the American people have enjoyed for more than a century. But these beverages, which are bottled and delivered to the largest cities and tiniest of towns across the country, mean more than just great taste and refreshment.

“It’s [soda] more than just a beverage — it’s an American tradition,” writer Charles Passy mused in a recent homage to the soda industry in MarketWatch.

So why is this staple of American culture being vilified merely because it contains calories, as do virtually all foods and many beverages?

Passy explains: “Soda is no worse than a lot of foodstuffs that we enjoy. But because it’s so heavily marketed and merchandised, it’s become an easy target — too easy, if you ask me. After all, there are as many calories in a six-ounce glass of red wine (about 150) as there are in a 12-ounce can of my beloved Moxie.”

A can of soda is not going to hurt anyone. It hasn’t since some of our most beloved brands – Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper – were invented in corner drugstores in the 19th century. Food activists who refuse to drink soda and a lot of other things we enjoy routinely claim soft drinks are the cause of every ill. But the overwhelming body of science just doesn’t’ support that soda causes any of these alleged ills. Some politicians see it as a way to raise taxes rather than tighten budgets.

But our industry, along with coalitions of other businesses, organizations and regular people, oppose such taxes and bans.  Why? Because we believe people should have the right to choose for themselves what they eat and drink – and at a price they can afford. We will continue to oppose such discriminatory measures.

Soft drinks have been enjoyed by Americans for close to 130 years at picnics, ball games, holiday gatherings, on the job and off. People around the world love American beverages too, from Shanghai and South Africa throughout Latin America and Europe. Instead of telling people what they can or cannot buy, we offer them the many choices they want and the information they need to determine for themselves what best fits their individual lifestyle.

It’s called freedom of choice, an American export as much as are our beverages.

“I’d argue that soda is this Great American Thing,” Passy says. “A drink that speaks to our special sense of taste — literally and metaphorically — in a positive respect.”