The New York City Soda Ban and Obesity: A Soda Junkie's Perspective
Okay, I know I’m a little late on this one, but I was drinking a Cherry Coke last week while I watched the 12-12-12 concert and I began thinking about the recent ban on large sodas in New York City. On July 9, opponents of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban held a rally organized by several City Council members and the NYC Liberty group. The health conscious mayor has signed legislation to stop the sales of soda and other high caloric drinks in containers of more than 16 ounces. Although the move is touted to be for the greater good, it's expected to cause financial damage at delis, fast-food franchises, sports arenas, and sidewalk carts. Moreover, if the establishments do sell large-sized sodas, they will be fined $200 for each sale.
Guilty as Charged
Before I go any further, I need to say that I drink soda on a daily basis. It’s awful, I know, full of empty calories and sugar. I have vowed to quit at least a dozen times, but I always go back. The all-in-one punch of caffeine, sugar, and carbonation is just what I need to start my day. So I usually have one can in the morning and another around lunch. The only good news is that I drink plenty of water every day, too, so maybe it counteracts some of the negative impacts of that soda.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if a soda ban is the answer to America’s obesity crisis. As it turns out, many people are thinking the same thing, and the general consensus is that cutting back on soda is not a solution in and of itself. The New York City Beverage Association, for instance, is far from happy with Mayor Bloomberg for attempting to limit the size of sweetened drinks. The organization said, “As obesity continues to rise, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that calories from sugar-sweetened beverages are a small and declining part of the American diet.”
Will It Work?
On the other hand, the proposal does raise awareness about the problem of large food portions, thus supporting a culture that consumes less. To illustrate, since the Coca-Cola Co. began selling its products, bottles often consumed as a single serving have increased in size from 6.5 ounces to 20 ounces. With this in mind, experts generally agree a cultural shift to more modest, reasonable, and appropriate portion sizes is necessary.
Others believe the proposed ban might be a largely symbolic move with no real effect on waistlines. After all, people could still consume large amounts of high-calorie beverages by buying them from places where they are not banned. The ban would not affect grocery stores or vending machines, and it would not apply to such beverages as fruit juices that contain more than 70 percent juice and lattes and milkshakes that contain more than 51 percent milk.
Taken as part of the whole, therefore, experts agree the general lack of physical activity in American culture, combined with high amounts of snacking, play important roles in the obesity epidemic. The soda ban would not negate this condition, and some studies have even shown the outright bans of soda and junk food in schools did not significantly reduce the weight of students.
What actions, then, might help people win the battle of the bulge? Most experts agree portion control is a must, and cutting sodas is a great place to start. Moreover, by eliminating the “bargain-sized” beverages that sodas claim to be, the ban would do away with the financial motivation people may have for buying them.
Wait and See
Speaking from a personal point of view, a soda ban in my hometown would certainly prompt me to reconsider what I do and do not drink. Just the act of making soda less accessible would mean I need to find an alternative or look harder for that which I crave. I do agree, however, that the ban is not a perfect solution. So many diet options – just look at the menu at McDonald’s – take us down completely unhealthy paths, making it difficult to pinpoint soda as the greatest culprit. Time will tell, though, if the ban is useful or simply controversial.