Is NYC’s Proposed Soda Ban Taking it Too Far? [Body Blog]
“New Yorkers for Beverage Choices” sounds like a joke group straight out of a Saturday Night Live skit. But it’s very real. And its members are engaged in what’s shaping up to be a pretty serious fight in New York City.
NYC’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has proposed a ban that would forbid the sale of sodas larger than 16 fluid ounces in places like movie theaters, sports arenas, delis and fast food chains. The city’s Board of Health will make its final decision on the policy after a public hearing on July 24, and the proposal has lots of New Yorkers – and big companies – up in arms. The ban would be the first of its kind in the country, and could take effect as soon as next March.
For a little perspective, 16 ounces is about the size of a medium coffee, and less than the standard soda bottle size.
Mayor Bloomberg’s office says that the ban is a necessary step toward ending obesity. It’s no secret that obesity is a nationwide problem, and that we’re getting desperate looking for solutions. In New York City alone, over half of all adults are obese or overweight. Around one third of New Yorkers drink one or more sugary drink per day, and the city has seen higher obesity rates in neighborhoods where more people drink more soda.
So there’s a connection between sugary drinks and obesity – no big surprise. But would this ban really cut down on the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks?
The ban only extends to soda – it wouldn’t include alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, diet sodas or dairy-based drinks like milkshakes. There’s plenty of sugar in those drinks, so why aren’t they forbidden? The ban wouldn’t extend to beverages sold in grocery stores or convenience stores, either. So you wouldn’t be able to order that jumbo soda at the movies, but you could go buy a couple of gallons at the store afterward. That doesn’t seem to make much sense. People have also pointed out that the 16 ounce limit doesn’t count for much, because you could always buy two or three 16 ounce sodas. Sounds ridiculous, but I’m sure it would happen.
It’s not the details of the ban, but issue of choice that New Yorkers for Beverage Choices are upset about. They say that people should have the freedom to decide what size soda they order, whether or not it’s healthy.
I’m inclined to agree. I think that, in an ideal world, no one would choose a giant soda, because they would know how harmful it is to gulp down that much sugar. For that, we need better education. And simply preventing someone from buying a drink full of sugar doesn’t teach them anything. So as much as Mayor Bloomberg’s office may think they’re saving people from themselves, I don’t think this soda ban would really help anyone. Instead, we need to find a way to motivate people to make more healthful choices – and that’s by no means an easy thing to do.
I almost want to support the ban, because I’d like to support a measure that claims to combat obesity. But I don’t think that this proposal is taking the right approach.
What do YOU think? Is a soda ban the secret to defeating obesity?
Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. She is “that person” who starts dancing at a party when everyone else is standing around, and if there were a Facebook stalking Olympics, she would be a gold medalist. She also loves cheesy 90s music, and almost died of happiness when Vanilla Ice retweeted her. Once. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.