NYC Soda Ban: A Necessary Step, or a Step in the Wrong Direction?
By Laura Hogg
From the FitChatter Blog Series
Welcome back to FitChatter! This week in the news: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on all soda servings larger than 16 ounces. Is this a necessary step against obesity, or an unnecessary restriction on freedom?
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg certainly made waves in the headlines this week. Soda lovers, take note: should Bloomberg’s latest proposal be passed, any soda servings larger than 16 ounces will be banned in the city’s restaurants, food carts, and movie theaters.
Unsurprisingly, this idea has been met with a huge outpouring of opinions in the blogosphere, from both sides. After reading one blogger’s opinion piece, I was all ready to denounce the ban as an awful idea. Yes, soda is terrible for your health – but it’s our right to choose, isn’t it? What’s next – a complete fast-food ban?
However, while I still think there’s a lot of merit in that point of view…further reflection has led me to think that maybe it’s not the horrible idea I initially thought it was. The arguments against this ban are pretty clear; detractors claim it infringes on our personal liberty. But what about the benefits it has to offer?
The cost of obesity
Obesity may seem like an individual problem, and certainly, in many ways, it is. No one can force you to be overweight, just as no one can force you to be healthy. But eventually, we all pay the cost; consider the rising cost of health insurance premiums.
The importance of portion size
What’s more – and this is important – this has the potential to start the kind of change that lasts. Scientists have long known that people rely on visual cues to figure out when they’re full – not feelings of satiety. To test this, they fed soup to a group of participants, half of whom were given (unbeknownst to them) self-refilling bowls. Regardless of BMI, the refill group ate, on average, 73% more than the control group. Clearly, controlling portion sizes is a big deal.
A question of freedom?
It’s important to point out that it’s not like you wouldn’t be able to go down to the corner store and buy a 2-liter of Coke (or Pepsi, if that’s your thing). The ban would only affect restaurants and movie theaters. No one is taking away your ability to drink yourself to diabetes if you want to.
I’m still on the fence about this issue, but as blogger Starre Vartan points out in her piece on the topic: “When it comes to a national health crisis, this minor change in serving sizes doesn't look like a question of freedom to me, it looks like a small step to get Americans to rethink what a serving of soda looks like.”