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Countys anti-sugar ad has a big dose of truth

MYVIEW • Grown-ups obligated to help kids make better, healthier choices
by: Courtesy of NYC Health Department The county attempted to buy space for a 60-second anti-obesity ad (above) to be screened before movies this summer. The ad was produced by the New York City Health Department. Local cinemas have rejected the county's ad.

A recent Tribune story, 'County's sugar fight not a blockbuster' (June 23), reported that Regal Cinemas refused to run a paid advertisement revealing the amount of sugar in soda pop. The Multnomah County Health Department had tried to purchase screen time for the ad as part of its effort to encourage healthier beverage options.

The ad shows that drinking a 20-ounce regular soda is equivalent to eating 16 packets of sugar (the packets of sugar you find in restaurants). It appears that Regal does not want you to know this information.

Maybe Regal rejected the ad because they don't sell 20-ounce sodas. At our local Regal theater, the smallest soda you can buy is 32 ounces.

For the record, this 'small' soda has 26 packets of sugar. The large soda comes in at 54 ounces, or 43 packets of sugar.

Really, it is no surprise that movie theaters do not want you to know the nutrition content of the foods and beverages they sell.

Here is another example of their hiding nutritional information: A federal law will soon require all chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. Movie theaters are lobbying to be exempt from this requirement.

Nutrition policies, such as menu labeling, are necessary if we are going to reverse the growing obesity epidemic and reduce spending on medical care. The best ways to reduce healthcare costs is to create environments that support people making healthy choices. Looking at it in terms of dollars and cents, not to mention health and well-being, we all have a vested interest in a healthy community.

Regal and other movie theaters accept advertising from companies trying to get you to drink more soda. Coca-Cola and Pepsi together spend more than $1 million every day promoting soda drinking in the United States. These soda industry ads are slick, well-produced and entertaining.

However, the industry ads don't tell you about the calories in soda, how this contributes to being overweight, and the subsequent health problems of diabetes and heart disease.

People have a right to know this information, and youth especially need to understand the implications of the extra calories and sugar they are consuming. Studies show that the average teenager gets more than 10 percent of their calories from soda. We, as the grown-ups, have an obligation to provide relevant information to kids so that they can make a healthy choice.

Youth are an important audience for these messages about the extra calories in soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. The county health department wanted to start running the advertisement now, because kids make up a larger proportion of movie audiences during the summer.

Regal knows that too, and they run a summertime promotion featuring kid films. Regal donates some of the proceeds from these kid films to the Will Rogers Institute, which focuses on medical research and health education. By accepting the paid advertisement about the sugar content of soda, Regal could have supported health education right here in Multnomah County and at the same time made money. So, how does this ad hurt Regal?

The county health department ad is just a comment about the amount of sugar in soda. As Will Rogers said, 'A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.'

This ad certainly has a big dose of truth.

Nancy Becker of Northeast Portland is a registered dietitian with Oregon Public Health Institute.