New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already banned the use of trans fats in restaurants and required posting of calorie contents in chain restaurants. Under the Bloomberg administration, the city ran controversial ads warning against the obesity-promoting effects of soda. Mayor Bloomberg supported a soda tax and a ban on the use of food stamps for purchasing soda (though these measures later fell through), and also proposed a nation-wide voluntary salt reduction program for packaged and restaurant foods.
Now, in a bold and ambitious attempt to curb rising obesity rates, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed that the city prohibit the sale of sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces (fountain drinks, bottles, and cans) in delis, fast food outlets, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, and street carts.
I commend Mayor Bloomberg for his efforts.
This new measure, if approved by the city’s Board of Health could take effect as early as March 2013, and would be the first ban of its kind in the U.S.
Sugary drinks are a significant contributor to our obesity epidemic: these calories are ingested with no bulk to create a feeling of physical fullness, and no fiber to slow down absorption of the sugars. There is a rapid and dangerous spike in blood glucose, followed by storage of hundreds of calories – without actually eating any food. On average, American men consume 178 calories each day from sugary drinks, and women consume 103. About 25% of American adults consume more than 200 calories from sugary drinks each day.1 Single-serving, 20-ounce bottles and even larger fountain sodas have become the norm. Those calories add up quickly.
The most recent beverage consumption data from the USDA shows that the average American consumes over 35 gallons of sweetened soft drinks every year.2
The proposed ban wouldn’t extend its reach to all sugary drinks – supermarkets and convenience stores and would not be affected, nor would fruit juices or dairy-based drinks like milkshakes and lattes. Also, there will of course be disagreement about whether the ban impinges on personal choice.
Regardless, the ban sets an important precedent. This proposed ban is important not just because of the reduced consumption in ounces of sugary drinks by New Yorkers that might result; it is important because of the psychological and social message the ban sends about sweet drinks and their contribution to ill-health and obesity.
The ban itself, by restricting what can be sold, places "harmful intent" on the fast food restaurants and other cheap food outlets that look to create addictive eating habits.
Am I the only adult alive in America who has never had an entire soda drink in their entire life? I had tasted a sip of a few in my youth and it just tasted so artificial, I could not understand why others even liked it. It is so disgusting to me to imagine pouring a liquid mix of sweetened chemicals down my throat; I would just as likely drink toilet cleaner. Nevertheless, maybe this law will spread and have the effect of making people rethink their self-destructive actions, and reduce sales of soda in general, over and above the reduction in size. Who knows?
1. Ogden CL, Kit BK, Carroll MD, et al: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NCHS Data Brief: Consumption of Sugar Drinks in the United States, 2005-2008. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db71.htm.
2. Carbonated soft drinks: Per capita availability. USDA/Economic Research Service estimate using data from the Census of Manufactures. Data last updated Feb. 1, 2011. [http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodConsumption/FoodAvailspreadsheets.htm - beverage]