While there is plenty of evidence showing that regular consumption of sugary drinks can lead to a host of health issues, and that these issues put additional stresses on our health care system, should the government be telling consumers what they can and can't eat?
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is waging a war on soda. This week the New York Times reported that he wants the city's health department" to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity."
According to the story, "The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces—about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle—would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March."
But could such a move actually go forward? The ban must still be approved by the city's Health Department, but since all of its members are appointed by Bloomberg, that answer is likely yes.
"Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’” Bloomberg told the Times. "New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do."
It may be what some of the public wants Bloomberg to do, but certainly not everyone is on board. The blogosphere, media pundits and pissed off New Yorkers have plenty to say about the proposed ban.
"The idea of the state stepping in and treating adults essentially as children and trying to protect them for their own good, as opposed to the good of others, that's been with us for as long as we've been around, as long as we've had governments," said Glen Whitman, an economist at California State University-Northridge to the Huffington Post.
Media pundit, Jon Stewart also railed against the proposed ban on his show: “I love this idea you have, of banning sodas larger than 16 ounces,” Stewart joked. “It combines draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect.”
Adds this New York City resident, " I think his heart is in the right place but people who want 32 oz of a sweet beverage can just buy two 16 ounces," Judy Tillinger, told Gothamist. "It seems kind of wrongheaded and I don't know if that is the thing most responsible for obesity. I mean, close McDonald's, that'll make a dent in it."
While I agree that regularly consuming giant, artificially colored and flavored sugary beverages, can lead to obesity and diabetes, I don't think taking away the option altogether is the best way to address these health issues. Instead why not additionally tax these beverages and use that money to build a better health care system? Or, even better, use the funds to inspire people to cut consumption on their own through an aggressive public awareness campaign?
We may be better off limiting the consumption of giant sodas, but people ought to be able to make these decisions themselves.
What do you think?