This is a special time for our country politically and there are huge issues being debated on a daily basis. While ‘soda’ is not necessarily one of those issues, American healthcare is an issue and for many people, so is American obesity. The statistics are kind of insane and I’m certainly not opposed to organizations and movements that seek to educate and encourage us all to live healthier lives. I’m eternally grateful to Trent, who– at the very least– makes me think really hard about running, like, all the time :) But the mayor of New York City (billionaire Bloomberg) has just passed a controversial ban on extra large soft drinks (as in, larger than 16 0z.) from restaurants, movie theatres, and fast food joints in an attempt to… what? Stop obesity? Force people to make healthier choices? I’m not exactly sure. And while the ban may have many, many positive effects, it also poses a host of serious questions about government involvement in the daily lives and decisions of Americans. Click inside to learn more about the ban, and to join me in a discussion of political or social freedoms and soda (or pop, shouts-out to Cleveland)- related rights.
The lovely ladies over at HelloGiggles covered the story and interviewed a nutrition expert as well:
As you may have heard, Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large sugar-sweetened drinks was approved by the New York City’s Board of Health yesterday morning. This ban means that all restaurants, fast-food joints, delis, movie theaters, sports stadiums and even food carts in the city will be barred from selling sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces.
I would be compelled to say that this is ridiculous and unnecessary. I would say that soda is a small part of the obesity equation. I would also say that this is America, and if people want to fill their insides with processed, sugar water served in trough-sized containers, that is their choice and their right to do so. I would say these things, even shout them from my balcony filled with neglected and malnourished plants, if I thought we, as a nation, could make responsible and conscious decisions when it comes to our overall health. However, it is clear from the staggering percentage of Americans classified as obese (35.7%!) that we need some supervision…
So Mary, as a dietitian, do you think this ban in NYC is a step in the right direction in terms of combating obesity?
Yes. Every little bit helps. It will make people think twice before drinking large amounts of sugary liquids just because they are there. Large servings make it too easy for people to over-consume sugar and calories. Research does link sugary drinks to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity and, in adults, type 2 diabetes. On average, obese people spend $1,400 more a year on health care compared to someone of normal weight. The mayor is just looking out for our physical and fiscal health.
If people choose to order a second serving of a sugary beverage, they will be allowed to do so. Do you think the people that have been ordering these gigantic drinks will just do that instead?
Yes. At first, those people may choose to buy two 16-ounce sodas just because they can and to protest the infringement on their civil liberties, but in time, people will get tired of paying for two sodas and giant-size portions will look strange. The mayor’s efforts to make the city healthier are usually met with opposition, but people get used to them over time.
Clearly, customers have never been forced to order these super-sized drinks. The ones that have and do on a regular basis, choose this option themselves. Why do you think Mayor Bloomberg chose to ban beverages and not food? Aren’t there numerous food options that are just as unhealthy?
Research doesn’t show sugary drinks cause obesity, but they do link sugary drinks to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes. But soda is also a low hanging fruit. It is a single substance that is easy to identify, and unlike other problem foods (e.g. French fries, burgers), it has no redeeming nutritional value. No one can argue that soda is a necessary food, yet so many people choose to indulge. Or do they even think about it? Now they might.
I think this is a great public health project because it affects young people. According to NHANES data, approximately one-half of the population over age 2 drinks sugary drinks every day, and among boys aged 2–19, 70% consume sugar drinks on any given day! Let’s nip that bad habit in the bud.
Do you think this ban will spread to other states?
It could move in that direction. That’s the way it works. In 2008, New York City was the first to pass a law mandating the posting of calories on chain restaurant menus, and now it’s a national law. The champions of public health will push it.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Here’s my thing. I don’t drink those ginormous sodas on the regular, although I’ve been known to share one with the love of my life in the movie theatre. I can live without that option, I suppose, lol. But something does not sit well with me on this and I think it’s the ‘what’s next?’ factor. Civil liberties is a tricky notion. If the NYC government has the right to control how much their citizens drink of something they deem unhealthy (and I think we can all agree with the nutritionist, that soda has no redeeming value), then what else will they choose to ban and will we always be okay with those things?
Ultimately, this is awesome news and I don’t mean to take away from that. It’s like when the documentary Super Size Me came out and McDonald’s started making small changes to their menu– awesome! But I also love art and the idea of art having impact; I do not love Bloomberg (I love no politician, it’s not personal) so I don’t love this ban! Also, without minimizing the obesity problem, I can’t help but feel like there are more important things the NYC government should be concerned with other than our soda intake. But maybe that’s just me.
I’d love to hear what you guys think about this. Is the soda ban a move in the right direction for a better, healthier America, or a means of treading on our rights as citizens?