Paul Jacob

Forgive me if I over-imbibe. I tip only one drink per day, but one drink's one too many . . . according to some folks I hear from too often. They, I am sure, would wish me to confess otherwise: "Can't you just say you've gone cold turkey?" They'd rather I lie. Why? Moderation is not supposed to be possible.

I refer, of course, to Coke. And Dr. Pepper. And Mountain Dew. That is: my favorite potable liquids. (Full disclosure: I get no money from any of the companies that make these fine products. Fuller disclosure: I would gladly accept money from these companies. Contact me, corporate flunkies, contact me!)

A reader in saner times — say, those halcyon days of the sixties and seventies, when I first opened my eyes to this kaleidic and sometimes idiotic world — would have thought that I must be referring to alcohol in its drinkable forms. You know, beer, wine, and the "spirits." And that any referent switcheroo to soft drinks was just absurd.

But these are not sane times, and one can today straight-facedly start up a conversation about the dangers of popular carbonated beverages on the street or the bus or the line at the DMV, debating for hours the wisdom of government oversight, regulation, and even downright prohibition of big-name "sodas."

How the tables have turned! The health nut crowd now lauds wine as a cure-all while blasting Coke and Pepsi as the devil's own true brew.

How soon we forget. Soft drinks (as they were once called) were invented and promoted in part to replace the "hard stuff," alcohol. The industry that grew up to promote these drinks was hailed as the savior of the masses. Coke became the virtuous alternative to Demon Rum.

Alas, no good deed goes unpunished, the corner cynic reminds us. And the corner cynic has a point. The willingness of culture's cruel pendulum to swing back and kick us when we've just gotten up is a lesson for the ages. Watch your backside.

The pendulum's return began with the anti-sugar craze. This led to two things:

One, a series of increasingly sophisticated sugar substitutes, such as saccharine, cyclamates, aspartame, sucralose, etc., and their regulation by the FDA, and consequent lobbying by the food and drug companies. (I could go on at length about these products, but hey: I don't use them. I look on a Diet Coke the way a serious gin tipster looks at near beer.)

Two, the ultimate sugar replacement: sugar.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.