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Should There Be a Minimum Drinking Age for Soda?

Former New York Times columnist Mark Bittman thinks so.

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It's no secret that soda is unhealthy, despite whatever Coca-Cola's recently disbanded team of sketchy scientists may have said. And while the liberal enclave of Berkeley, Calif. recently began taxing the sugary beverage in an attempt to discourage consumption, plenty of other cities have tried to introduce a similar tax and failed miserably.

Should stricter measures be implemented to wean Americans off the corn-syrupy teat of big soda? Food writer Mark Bittman thinks so. In a recent interview with Lucky Peach, the plant-based diet advocate who recently left the New York Times to join a vegan meal delivery startup suggested there ought to be a minimum drinking age for soda:

I suggest we start discussing carding kids when they go to the counter to buy a Coke. In other words, you have to be sixteen to buy a Coke, because we don’t think that you’re able to make a decision about how much soda you can drink until you’re sixteen. Really it should be twenty, but I’m compromising because it’s such a far-fetched idea.

Reached by Eater for comment, Bittman admits he doesn't believe a minimum drinking age for soda would actually pass, but he does fully support the idea: "I don't think it would fly, no. But that doesn't mean it's not a good idea. Gun control is a good idea, too, right?"

As for whether or not soda deserves to be put in the same ranks as cigarettes and alcohol, Bittman says, "... it doesn't matter whether soda is 'as dangerous' as nicotine. It's dangerous. It should not be consumed by people who can't make rational decisions." He concedes that perhaps 14 would be a more reasonable age limit for soda purchases, but insists, "It should not be marketed to kids, period."

In an effort to curb adolescent smoking, the FDA introduced new rules in 2010 that greatly restricted how tobacco products could be marketed — banning cigarette companies from sponsoring sporting events, for instance — but would Americans ever get on board with similar limitations on soda advertising? Nonetheless, some restaurants are taking a step in the right direction, with chains like IHOP and Applebee's removing soda from their kids' menus.

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