School and county officials gathered Thursday, Oct. 20 at Talbott Springs Elementary School in Columbia to announce a new "Soda-Free 30" pledge for county students and residents.

County Executive Ken Ulman, Howard County Health Officer Peter Beilenson and Superintendent Sydney Cousin all signed the pledge, along with Talbott Springs fourth- and fifth-graders, committing to not drinking soda of any kind for the next 30 days, until Nov. 18.

"All of us can make the commitment and take this simple but powerful step to go soda-free for 30 days," Ulman said. "Even the smallest prevention effort is worth making if it can help to raise awareness and promote behavior change."

The soda-free campaign has a special focus on the student population of the county. It is aimed at building local awareness about obesity and related chronic diseases and health problems, and at heightening awareness of the health risks associated with sugar-sweetened beverages like soda.


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"There are many confusing and misleading messages about healthy eating and nutrition," Beilenson said in a statement. "But there is nothing confusing about this. Soda and other sugary beverages do nothing to help your health. On the contrary, drinking them causes weight gain and increases the risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. And the risks are equally serious for children and adults."

The pledge is available to sign on the Howard County Health Department's website, http://www.hcheath.gov, and on its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/SodaFree30.