For the third year in a row, I spent Valentine’s Day at the Kentucky State Capitol advocating for heart health. This year I joined several hundred at a rally for the Smoke Free Kentucky bill which would make all workplaces and public buildings in Kentucky smoke-free. I met with my representative and shared the story of my grandmother’s smoking. When she was a young woman in the 1940’s, she carpooled with a group of women to work. The other women in the car smoked, which made it hard for my grandmother to breathe. They told her that if she would start smoking it wouldn’t bother her anymore, so she did. She smoked for decades until the doctor told her if she didn’t stop, she’d lose her legs. She passed away before my wedding.
Flash forward many years later and I was a new mother in Lexington. The city was considering adopting an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in workplaces and public buildings. Holding my baby girl, I attended the rally in support of the ordinance and was thrilled when it passed. I appreciate being able to raise my children in a smoke-free environment and hope all parents in our state get that same right.
Yes, my grandmother chose to start smoking but her choice was heavily influenced by her environment. As we’ve changed the environment through education, policy and social norms, we have seen smoking rates drop. We have made progress changing the environment for the better when it comes to smoking and need to do the same with today’s obesogenic environment. The Center for Science in the Public Interest showed bold leadership doing just that yesterday when it petitioned the FDA to determine safe limits for added sugar in beverages.
“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”
The petition was supported by many notable health organizations and experts including Robert Lustig, David Katz, Marion Nestle, Barry Popkin, and Lisa Young. It is also worth noting that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) did not sign the letter of support. Is it because they are sponsored by Pepsi and Coke? It’s telling that this week Dietitians for Professional Integrity was formed which is composed of Registered Dietitians and Registered Dietitians-to-be who do not support the current model of corporate sponsorships held by the AND.
We believe these sponsorships pose a serious conflict of interest for a nutrition organization, and harm our credential and reputation.
I am grateful to the tobacco advocates whose work allows me to raise my children in a smoke free environment. I am also grateful to the public health advocates who are working to address the harms caused by sugary drinks and will do my part to pay it forward.