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Ban on soda sale on subway is welcome

Dec 21,2015


The city of Seoul restricted sales of carbonated drinks at vending machines in public facilities like public offices and subway stations to prevent negative impacts on health such as obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis. It was a very appropriate measure, as the local government should refrain from making purchases of such products accessible in busy places and trying to make profits out of the sales.

The No. 1 cause that shortens the lifespan of people is an unhealthy diet. The government has two choices to change unhealthy habits. One is to publicize the harms of certain food to discourage overconsumption, and the other is to restrict supply. But in a society with a capitalist market system, publicity and promotion are more appropriate than restricting supply. However, the publicity approach is not cost-effective. When people live in the flood of advertisements and marketing that constantly emphasizes drinking carbonated drinks is socially and culturally desirable, people cannot resist the influence.

So restricting sales is an effective and efficient way to discourage overconsumption. When the individual freedom to choose products clashes with the public good of the health of the people, the public interest should be prioritized over individuals, argued John Stuart Mill, an advocate of liberal democracy. Therefore, it is only fair and just for the Seoul Metropolitan Government not to sell soda in public facilities for the health of the people. A government that reduces the tempting opportunities to protect the people is better than a government that urges people to consume wisely.

by Kim Kwang-kee, Professor at the Inje University Graduate School of Public Health





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