Posted on January 12, 2002

Parental Choice Hero: Jim Landers

Schools may expel pop vending machines

CODY, Wyo. - A Cody dentist is leading a statewide campaign to ban soda pop machines from public schools in Wyoming.

The ban would come in the form of a bill to be considered during the coming legislative session, says Jim Landers, president of the Wyoming Dental Association.

He's coordinating the statewide effort, with support from 10 to 12 groups.

"We're anticipating stiff opposition" from the soft drink industry, Landers said. "But I believe the present and future health of children is worth the fight."

When schools make financial deals with those companies and allow the sale of high-sugar drinks, they're committing "child prostitution," he said. "They're selling out the present and future health of our children.

"It's morally wrong to have pop machines in grade schools."

Some schools already no longer allow the machines.

Landers recently announced the campaign, accompanied by supporters Dr. Greg McCue and Liz Fabrizio, director of nutrition services at West Park Hospital.

By selling pop, the schools are sanctioning an unhealthy diet and helping young people form unhealthy lifetime habits, McCue and Fabrizio say. The students' parents think pop is OK because the school allows it, and the students will keep drinking it when they become adults.

The trio enumerated the health complications from high-sugar intake: tooth decay, weak bones, obesity, Type 2 diabetes.

"Mountain Dew mouth" has become dentists' nickname for young teeth riddled with decay, Landers said. In his 24 years here he has seen an increase in cavities in young people and blames soda.

Pop contains acid and sugar that feed bacteria that cause decay, Landers said. The annual consumption of pop more than doubled 1970-97, increasing from 22
gallons to 53 gallons per average person.

The state will save money on reduced health care costs if the Legislature bans pop in schools, Landers said. He gave a copy of the California ban to Rep. Colin
Simpson, who sent it to Cheyenne for staffers to draft into a Wyoming proposal.

Although the California bill banishes pop from elementary and middle schools, Landers would extend the ban to high schools. Evanston already imposes that
restriction, Fabrizio said.

The bill fits the Legislature's budget agenda because of all the money the state spends on health care, Landers said.

"The younger kids depend on us for guidance," McCue said. "They know the concept (of proper eating), though they may not do it.

"Kids are good about making decisions."