I’m sure by now you have all heard the debate swirling around Mayor Bloomberg’s latest proposal – the banning of all sodas and other sugary drinks greater than 16 ounces at restaurants, fast food joints, movie theaters, and sports arenas in New York. There are many reasons this makes sense from a public health and obesity prevention perspective, but there are plenty of tweets, radio spots, and other advertisements showing strong opposition. The public outcry and the dollars being thrown out by the American Beverage Association (ABA) and others to shoot down the proposal continues to increase as we get closer to the public hearing next week.
I clearly remember my own “Big Gulp” days back in high school, when just about everyone had a giant mug that we proudly toted around everywhere we went – unfortunately, they were never filled with water or 100% juice. We would joyfully jump in our cars after school and swing by the gas station on our way to softball practice for a refill (yes, this was probably our second stop of the day) of 64 ounces of sugary goodness.
Most of us public health folks think this new ban is a good one, after all, theoretically less soda=less calories=less weight gain or more weight loss=better health. I recently came across another interesting angle that supports the ban in Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food.” In the book, Pollan highlights research that shows, as a culture, Americans tend to eat everything that’s put in front of us regardless of how full we become, which does not bode well for our “supersized” culture. I thought this was an interesting research finding (it certainly jived with my own personal experience), especially when applied to the current issue at hand. If we continue to pour people 32-42-64 ounce drinks then they are going to continue to consume every drop. However, if they have to get up to purchase another bottle or request a refill after the proposed 16 ounces, maybe they’ll actually stop and think about the negative consequences. Just maybe.*
Bloomberg’s attempt at a state tax on soda (explored in an earlier R2R discussion on taxes and public health) and a proposed restriction on food stamps to buy sodas both fell flat, so it will be interesting to see the outcome when New York’s Board of Health votes on this proposal in September.
In the meantime, I’m interested to hear what others think. We’ve been talking a lot about “swimming upstream” on R2R, and the policy, systems, and environmental improvements that lead to long-lasting, sustainable change. Do you think this “upstream” ban could have a positive public health impact? Or do you think New York is better off without a “nanny,” as some opponents have quipped?
*Views and opinions are my own – please share your thoughts, too!