Dunkin Donuts Falls Victim to Bay County Health Director

by May 8, 2009 • 20 comments

In a bold move, Bay County Health Director, Dr. Jason Newsom recently included shots fired directly at Dunkin Donuts in the rotation of the regular rotating messages on the digital billboard in front of the Bay County Health Department.  The digital billboard flashes in rotation a number of “health-messages” that often chime in to the tune of “french fries = thunder thighs” or specifically what the Health Director came under fire about, “Dunkin Donuts = death”, and “Dunkin = diabetes”.

In a letter to Dr. Jason Newsom, Commissioner Mike Thomas requested Dr. Newsom’s resignation citing that this was not the only time his messages were too edgy.  No complaints had been made on the Dunkin Donuts message, but many complaints had been made in the past to County Commissioners.

The frankness of the messages exceeds the tolerance of many in the public, and although I can understand, sympathize and even endorse a consistent message conveying good health habits, I would think naming businesses directly would be counter-productive as to the purpose of the messaging to begin with.  Surely there could be a better way to convey a healthy message other than to say “fries = thunder thighs“; try “apple = healthy heart“.  Maybe conveying a positive message could be more productive and less criticized.

I don’t know Dr. Newsom, nor have I followed his actions as Bay County Public Health Director, but I would think it irresponsible as a public official to participate in slander on a business.

This particular incident fired up Commissioner Mike Thomas because of the use of the name Dunkin Donuts, which is slated to open in the next 30 days at Back Beach Road and the newly renamed R Jackson Blvd.  Thomas cites that the use of a business name could put Bay County at risk of lawsuit.  I think the message is short-sighted and irrisponsible and agree with Thomas that Dr. Newsom should have the sense to not single out a business in his “public-health” messages.  I don’t know that I would call for his resignation, but this clearly shows a lack of capable discernment and emulates poor judgement.

On a side note, although I think donuts are delicious, they are terrible for you.

What do you think?

Edited 5/11/09: Dr. Jason Newsom offered his resignation Friday and is no longer the Director of Public Health for Bay County.

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1 Allan May 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm

He should not call out a business like that….donuts=diabetes maybe but dunkin no. Does he realize how much money from his budget comes from business like this. I dont know what the costs are in Florida but in Alabama you have to pay the for the food permit…guess who gets that money…the department of public health. Not to mention the taxes as well that will be generated from sales. You best believe that he is opening up the county for a lawsuit….Not only are they bad for you…they are bad for your wallet. Dunkin is WAY over priced.


2 Mary May 8, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I personally like Donut Island Donuts. They make there donuts with zero transfats. There coffee is really good also!!!


3 jake May 8, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Really??? Seriously??? Why didn’t he just put “Dunkin’ Donuts go home!!!” on the sign. This is not a strip club, porn shop, or otherwise objectionable establishment – it is a donut shop. In such a volatile economic climate we should welcome with open arms ANY reputable new business that tourists and full time residents alike can enjoy. What an embarrassing display of ignorance. If anyone associated with Dunkin Donuts happens to read this – please don’t think that everyone here thinks this way. I honestly can’t tell you the last time I ate a donut – and I can’t say that I will be first in line for a Dunkin’ Donut… but never the less, welcome to the beach.
Can anyone explain to me why Bay County seems to have such a difficult time welcoming positive change while constantly complaining about the image the beach has to surrounding states?? Everyone (mainly government/city officials) needs to make up their minds – let’s either move forward and compete with other large resort areas or just stay close minded and shut out other businesses that might consider looking at Panama City Beach as their next venture. With comments such as these publicly displayed, I think the latter will be our fate… and if continued, our demise.
Also – does he not take issue with the Krispy Kreme DIRECTLY in front of the hospital on 23rd St.?? Just food for though – no pun intended.


4 david reich May 11, 2009 at 11:12 am

I commend Mike Thomas for stepping up against this ignorance. While Mike is also in the resturant business, and with Dunkin even as a competitor, it shows Mike’s unselfish dedication to our community to stand up for what is right. I especially side with Jake in his remarks – you have hit the nail on the head! Positive vibes are the way to go forward.


5 mr bay county May 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Man the guy Jake said everything that was needed to be said. I go to these food establishments almost everyday and everyday they are busy with business. Who chose to eat there? The people that’s who. I’m all but 150lb and I don’t watch what I eat. I will be in line for dunkin donuts though. Being from the north I’m excited for the venture. I don’t eat krispy kreme sugar, I mean donuts. If the health clinic wants to scroll stuff on signs, they should stick to facts. Tobacco kills, safe sex is safe, etc…


6 Cara May 12, 2009 at 6:13 am

Mary, I agree with you, Donut Island’s donuts and coffee are wonderful! In fact, think I will stop and have a cup with an extra shot this morning!

Gonna be that kind of day


7 Wag the Dog May 12, 2009 at 7:17 am

Who writes Dr. Newsom’s stuff ?

Michael Moore?

I’m glad his sign isn’t supersized !


8 Maureen May 12, 2009 at 7:42 am

Dr. Newsom should be made to give back his doctor license; donuts=diabetes. Tsk, tsk.


9 Tom May 12, 2009 at 9:26 am

Mike Thomas is clearly a conflict of interest and should not be allowed to be the orator against good health. His arrogance supersedes his judgment. This is another example of choosing profits over the interest of his constituency as was voting against the turtle lights. Mike Thomas should resign.


10 D May 12, 2009 at 9:38 am

Government = not very bright


11 Jason Koertge May 12, 2009 at 9:41 am

that’s ridiculous Tom, so you’re trying to tell me that it’s ok for a government entity to single out businesses in a slanderous manner?


12 Eric Habshey May 12, 2009 at 9:57 am

Is it really surprising that a government offical with no business experience would do something this stupid. These guys look down with disdain upon the very businesses and people that pay their bloated salaries.


13 Tom May 12, 2009 at 10:12 am

I get the message. Sugar is chaff the more you pour into your body the worse the wear. Diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise combined are the number one health problem in the US. New York outlawed Tran’s fats, with no lawsuits. Are we not capable bringing good heath to our community? We defiantly need some one like the Dr. to teach us. To run him out of town was ignorance on Thomas’s part. . We don’t need some one whose profit is measured by how much chaff we consume.


14 BeachinMod May 12, 2009 at 11:19 am

Wow Tom! You have really missed the point here – too bad. Its not about the food – its about a govt official publically singling out businesses – its slander.


15 Cameron May 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I think you missed the point. The point was not that everyone in Bay County is following the pied piper to the donut shop only to suffer an agonizing death….and the “good doctor” was going to be our saving grace. I think we ALL know now the hazards of over indulgence (this goes for sugar to alcohol to tobacco…). This point of the entire article was that singling out one business – a NEW business at that was just inappropriate – bottom line.


16 Jonboy May 14, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Here we go again. Government officials deciding what is good for us. GET OUT of our lives! If we need some guidance on how to live our lives, we certainly wouldn’t seek it from the government.


17 Susan May 15, 2009 at 10:09 am

Everybody should go read the emails that the News Herald has posted… Dr. Newsom did not just ‘single out’ Dunkin Donuts. The messages that he composed were many and touched subjects other than food such as teen sex, smoking and positives of marriage and parenthood. We have to also remember where these messages were posted… in the health department… many people that go there don’t have the educations and social positions that afford them the information they may need to make smart healthy decisions. This mans job was to do exactly that… inform and teach… sometimes the message has to be in simple cut and dry terms to reach your audience. Dunkin Donuts absolutely does target children and even makes things into smiley faces to attract them. The ‘Eat This not That Book’ for kids votes that product the worst thing for kids! Regardless… his job is to educate and then hope that people make good choices… there are good choices at Dunkin Donuts I’m sure but for the most part people… lets be real… eating donuts is not the healthy choice.
Are we really afraid that a few people choosing not to go to Dunkin Donuts is going to hurt their business and bay county… If that was the case then every diet doctor, oprah show and self help book in the bookstore would have to be destroyed for potentially driving away the business these fast food, unhealthy joints crave! I mean please… let the man do his job… let the people make their choices… after all… the cardiologist depend on those donut eaters to stay in business too and we know how important the doctors are to Bay County politicians.


18 Jason Koertge May 15, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Point well taken, susan, and well put. However, regardless of what’s healthy or not, the point still lies in that a public official should not put tax payer money at risk singling out ANY business.

Hey, I’m all for Donuts = Death, or Donut Diabetes, but for a public office to slander a private business, they risk suit at the taxpayers expense.

It is flat-out an irresponsible way to convey a message. I can totally relate to wanting to walk a fine line of what’s appropriate versus whats inappropriate, but Dr. Newsom crossed that line. I think it is apparent that the state agreed with that as well. Knowing what I’ve read about him, he would not have offered his resignation unless given an ultimatum.


19 Tom May 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Just curious, just exactly what was slanderous? To be slanderous it has to be untrue.
Don’t get me wrong, if the doctor was locking Duncan’s door I would be the first to hand you the lock cutters. No one has said to outlaw them or even ban them. It a balanced diet message, junk food make you feel good inside. Sometime comfort food is good. We do not have a balance diet in our house. My ex girlfriend’s daughter is a junk food junkie, she just got out of the hospital this week with a cyst removal caused by a junk food diet, Her hearing was lost in the 5th grade due to a junk food diet, her eyesight is poor and wears glasses. Your immune system does not operate functionally with out proper nutrition and the lesson she learns is junk food will get you fired if you oppose it. (She is vindicated) This is a terrible message to send to our children. Our expenses in treating low immune deficiency (junk food side effects) is way more than any lawsuit could ever be. Look at all the saving we could realize. We are ruining human beings by pretending it does not matter.
The redneck Riviera just got redder. Chalk another one up for the good o’l boys’
The News Herald shed the light Duncan had to get one of there own to shoot the massager. You can’t be for the way this happened.


20 Jason Koertge May 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm

actually, to slander someone(thing) is, per merriam-webster, to utter slander against or defame. It doesn’t have to be untrue.

The Director of the Health Department was slanderous in that he was singling out an individual business with derogatory statements. For anyone to do something like this they open themselves up to the risk of lawsuit. If a private company was to do this, it would be a private matter, something for the business owners to deal with, if they so choose, but for a public official to do this, the issue then becomes a public matter, opening up the tax payer to risk of financing a civil suit that was the result of irresponsible behavior. That’s the issue. I never said Dr. Newsom did not do anything great, just that this particular incident was irresponsible as a public official.

I totally agree with the balanced diet argument. I for one, don’t eat donuts but maybe once every couple months. they are terrible for you, and I try not to eat that way, nor do we encourage our children to eat that way, but again, this isn’t about donuts. If Dr. Newsom had singled out just donuts, no one would have complained, but he singled out individual businesses. You just can’t do that. I’ll be the first one to agree with you that there is a “good-ol-boy” network here. But, if you go to any town, you’ll notice that all local politics are that way. Just look at Chicago, New York City, LA, New Orleans, you can’t tell me that there is never any influence of money and relationships in the political spectrum in other local governments.

I get aggrivated at people that “chalk” it up to the good-ol-boy network around here when instead, if they don’t like it, they should do something about it. I know who you are Tom, and I can remember you running around with some of the “local” names here.

Tom, we agree on the health issues, and there are things that I’ve heard about Dr. Newsom that he did that were great, but on the contrary, he was always a little radical in his execution, and this isn’t the first time he came under fire for it. We need radicals in office, but they need to be radical while following the rules. They can walk the line, but as soon as they cross it, they should expect to lose their job.


21 JoAnne August 14, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I’ve been eating Dunkin Donuts since birth. I’m in my 40s and have no health issues. I am 5’6″ and 143lbs. So it must be untrue and there fore slander. Besides, America does run on Dunkin! Who wants the entire country to shut down? Dunkin creates endorphins and therefore happy people. It is the cure for depression! Laugh. I love them DONUTS and married a cop to besure I would have them til I die… happy!