(Image from here)
You’ve probably heard that Mayor Bloomberg wants to ban sugary drinks here in New York City. As a closet soda lover (although I have maybe one/week and mostly stick to local/”all natural” sodas) I have some pretty strong feelings about this.
First, let me say that I think many of the other health initiatives Mayor Bloomberg has enacted have been great. As noted in the New York Times article above he has banned smoking in restaurants and public parks (AMAZING!), has banned artificial trans fats (I assume this is good for me, although I don’t think food tastes any differently), required calorie counts to be posted in restaurants (love/hate this), and he’s required health inspection grades to be posted in restaurant windows (which I mostly ignore, but it does sometimes make me think twice).
In my mind all of those things are things are for a common good. Banning smoking makes life harder for smokers, but makes life so much better for everyone who doesn’t smoke (aka those who aren’t deciding to kill ourselves). Banning trans fats doesn’t seem to affect anyone except the restaurants who are making the purchases; can anyone tell the difference? And the restaurant grades and calorie counts are a way to encourage restaurants to follow proper health standards and empower restaurant-goers to make their own choices.
But the soda ban is different in my mind. Yes, obesity is a huge problem in our society and has consequences for those who aren’t obese (higher health premiums, fewer seats on the subway), but, in my mind, if you want to drink 64oz of soda, you should be able to. I’m all for encouraging people to make healthier choices, but ultimately I don’t think the government should be prohibiting us from making choices that have no ill effect on other people (but this is a fine line and I’m sure I’m contradicting myself here).
With that said, a few other thoughts:
Why not just ban sales to children? Obesity is a huge problem for children and I’m sure sugary drinks are a big cause of that obesity. Why not ban sales of sugary drinks to people under 18 years old? The NYT article mentions how soda is not sold in many schools and I wonder, why was soda ever sold in schools? (There was a soda machine in my high school but you couldn’t use it until after school hours.) Not only for health reasons, but what teacher wants a kid in their class who’s hopped up on sugar and caffeine?
Why isn’t diet soda included? If we’re really concerned about health why not ban large diet sodas, too? I get that they’re not a direct cause of obesity (although I believe they’re an indirect cause), but all those fake sugars (meaning chemicals like aspartame, not high fructose corn syrup which is also really a fake sugar) aren’t healthy either.
I have two solutions (I’m sure Mayor Bloomberg will greatly appreciate my opinion…). First, why not tax soda like we tax cigarettes? I know this has been proposed and shot down before, but I’m a big fan of this idea. Although, I suppose by making people buy another 16oz soda to get to their regular 32oz soda it is a tax of sorts because it’s greatly increasing the price. But if a 16oz soda costs $5 and a 32oz soda costs $8 people will be discouraged from consuming a large amount of soda.
Second, why not force manufactures to make the calorie count on the bottle huge? I know it’s already bigger than it once was and it now includes calorie information for the whole bottle, not just serving size, but it’s still pretty easy to ignore. Or why not include how many sugar cubes are in each soda? That image of the sugar cubes in a 64oz drink is terrifying.
I know it’s politics and that’s how these things work, but this seems ridiculous: “Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal requires the approval of the Board of Health, a step that is considered likely because the members are all appointed by him, and the board’s chairman is the city’s health commissioner, who joined the mayor in supporting the measure on Wednesday.” I guess it’s like the President’s cabinet, but it seems like there should be some sort of checks and balances system, too.
And I think it’s insane not to include bodegas. They’re only included, acording to the NYT, if they’re “food service establishments” meaning they get a letter grade from the city. I’ve been trying to picture most of the bodegas that I go into and I don’t think the majority have a letter grade on them. I would imagine those are where a lot of people buy sugary drinks.
Anyone was to share their own thoughts? Do you think this will pass in NYC? Would it fly elsewhere?