Which makes you wonder how much of an impact the changes will have on students' waistlines. As grounds for hope, Jacobson cites a study in the March issue of Pediatrics that he says showed "increased soft-drink consumption contributes to obesity."
By delivering free diet soft drinks to the homes of 53 teenagers (a method Jacobson certainly would not approve) and encouraging them to "Think Before You Drink," the researchers achieved a dramatic 82 percent reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Even so, there was no significant overall difference in weight change between this group and a control group of 50 teenagers who did not receive diet drinks or counseling. A statistically significant effect was apparent only among the fattest kids, who lost a small amount of weight.
Since the intervention in this study was much more elaborate and expensive than the changes Bill Clinton is trumpeting, there's little reason to believe fiddling with the drink selection in school vending machines will make students noticeably thinner. They will still be free to eat what they want and to buy the beverages of their choice off campus, which is where they consume most of their calories anyway.
So will schools start searching students' bags for contraband soda? Will CSPI threaten a new lawsuit to establish soda-free zones around schools? The soft drink companies may yet regret cutting this deal.