Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has officially overturned a ban on the sale of sugary drinks and high-calorie snacks on county property and at events sponsored by the county, his office said Thursday.
Kittleman said the ban, signed into law by former Howard executive Ken Ulman with a 2012 executive order, "clearly overstepped" an "appropriate role" for government.
"We fully support efforts to control obesity and disease caused by poor eating habits, and to encourage exercise," he said in a statement announcing his decision.
But, "better education is the key to dealing with this issue, not simple bans,” he said. "Intelligent choices on nutrition and dietary practices should be the goal of all citizens, especially of parents for their children."
Earlier this week, the Horizon Foundation, a public health nonprofit that has worked to encourage healthier choices in the county through its Howard County Unsweetened campaign, released a statement criticizing Kittleman's decision to move ahead with the repeal.
"We are disappointed that County Executive Kittleman has chosen to repeal, without a thorough review process, the county’s nutritional standards that are helping to address the biggest public health threats we face in Howard County," the statement read. "While we appreciate County Executive Kittleman’s desire to address obesity and its related diseases, education alone -- without other community and environmental changes -- does not align with proven public health research.
"We will continue to work with our community partners and the County Council to develop policies and programs that effectively address the biggest public health threats we face," the Horizon statement continued. "In the spirit of his statements that this will be an inclusive administration, we hope that the county executive will participate in this effort."
In his statement, Kittleman responded to the group's view that education alone is not enough.
"Banning someone from purchasing a soda at a county park isn't going to change their health habits. Getting them motivated to take responsibility for their own health and well-being will make a larger difference in the long run,” he said.