This commentary appeared on Newsday on September 14, 2012.
New York City's just-approved ban on serving sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces, along with the decision by McDonald's to post calories on menu boards nationwide, signal a new era in efforts to control the obesity epidemic. And as we navigate this future, it's worth taking a look at similar campaigns in our country's past.
Two hundred years ago, America was considered a nation of drunkards. Alcohol was the beverage of choice, in part because people didn't have access to potable water or couldn't trust the local water supply. Alcohol was served to all, even children. The tavern was the key social institution in town. Employers gave workers allotments of rum. Abundant corn crops were difficult to ship, so settlers transformed them into abundant supplies of whiskey.