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Remember Carefree Cola Guzzling? Soda I.

There was a time in America when gulping a soda or Slurpee was as innocent as taking a breath of air. But times and outlooks are changing fast. Probably for the better.

Come January 1, 2018, Geisinger health facilities will eliminate all sugary drinks and they won’t be available in vending machines, cafeterias or any Geisinger food facility.

Frankly, I applaud their decision. Let’s face it — most of us were “weaned” on cheap .99-cent bottles of soda during our youth. It washed down pizza, hamburgers, subs and snacks. My grandmother would serve us Ma’s soda beverages. My mother would succumb at the supermarket and give me my “fix” of Orange Crush or root beer. It was a staple at family picnics.

Little did we know these beverages would lead us to all sorts of medical dilemmas, which include obesity and diabetes. Some doctors I have spoken to regard soda as poison.

“Sugar sweetened beverages are the leading cause of added sugar in the American diet, which contributes to rising trends of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease and many other problems,” said Geisinger guest services Vice President Dave Thomas.

This includes regular colas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and sweetened milks.

By now I’ve hit your hot button. Many of you feel you should be able to buy and drink whatever you please. You feel the government or a private institution shouldn’t force restrictions on you. Even if it is going to cause problems down the road. Perhaps death. Hey, they make you wear seat belts too.

Geisinger wants to promote healthy eating and drinking. In 2010 they removed trans-fat from their food system. In 2011, they took the deep fryers out of all their food facilities. Last year they put a sodium cap on certain items, and this year introduced antibiotic-free chicken.

People still like choices in their life. Soda, Red Bull, sweet teas and lemonade have flowed like water since Coke, Pepsi, Nehi and Moxie hit the market decades ago. Like guns, Americans won’t give up the sugar laced concoctions. It’s like nectar to them.

New York City residents were ready to riot in 2012 when mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted to enact a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters, and street carts. His goal was to combat rising obesity.

Thus, any sugary drink larger than 16 ounces (about the size of a medium coffee) would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan.

Bloomberg, “New York City is not about wringing your hands, it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Not so fast, Mr. Mayor. After a two-year battle, in 2014, it was struck down by the state’s court of appeal. In a 26-page ruling, they said the city’s health department “exceeded the scope” of its authority in 2012.

So let John Q. Public guzzle those soda refills like a diesel truck in the desert. And make sure it fits in the oversize cup holder. You don’t want to spill a drop! Burp!

Some cities have gone as far as putting a tax on sugary drinks, like 1.5 cents per ounce. The tax is paid by distributors, who pass the added cost to retailers, which then (guess what?) gets handed down to the consumer. Or should I say, glutton?

Honestly, I gave up soda over a decade ago. Like a nasty girlfriend (on the outside sugar and spice, and on the inside not so nice) I don’t miss it. I like water. It goes down smoother, is ingested faster and easier into your system, and it’s nature’s gift to us. With a pinch of lemon, and on ice, it gets the job done!

Fruit drinks (orange, cranberry, grape) still rank on my hit parade, but in moderation. I crave an ice cold Gatorade on a humid day during a workout (make it Glacier Freeze or Riptide Rush).

Not sure where you stand (swallow) in all of this fizzle — but statistics and research on sugar don’t come up very sweet in your favor. Insulin shots and dialysis treatments don’t sound pleasant to me. Even so, I see young children chug Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew as if their lives depend on it.

Hey kids — it doesn’t!

Healthy choices are tough. I am sure it was a tough decision for Geisinger to make, as they are going to lose revenue from stocking those sugary drinks. But I feel doctors and administration made the right move. These people see first hand how sugar affects our health in a negative way. Day after day!

As I see it, cola advertising has taken our nation hook, line and sinker.

But this fish? My gills dig H2O. Thirsty? Meet me at the water cooler, not the fancy, flashing vending machine pumping out cans of processed sugar cubes!

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