Super Sized Rhetoric
Much has been said about Bloomberg's attempt to ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in sizes bigger than 16 ounces. Critics have loudly labeled the ban silly, invoked the specter of nanny-states and communism, and Jon Stewart mocked the idea openly on his show.
But in the haste to mock the initiative, might I suggest that it might have some rather beneficial effects?
sugar high-fructose corn syrup is ravaging America. The Center for Disease Control currently sets adult obesity at 35.7%. The childhood obesity rate is 16.9%. And there is a direct correlation between obesity and diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and certain types of cancer. Whatever you think of Bloomberg's very targeted ban on gigantic sodas, real progress has to be made at combating this life-threatening epidemic.
Bloomberg's move would outlaw sodas, sweetened teas, vitamin waters and other sugar-sweetened beverages sold only in specific locations. Parents could still buy 2-liter bottles of Pepsi for their family outings, but McDonald's would no longer offer super-size drinks, and deli carts would sell drinks in relatively smaller sizes (16 ounces is still a lot of soda).
This 20oz Sobe Green Tea contains as much sugar as half a pie.
Stewart and other detractors point out that banning a large drink doesn't stop Americans from eating a disproportionate amount of equally unhealthy food. But studies have shown that people feel hungrier after drinking a liquid "meal" than after eating a solid meal. Put simply, people don't routinely follow up a Thanksgiving feast with half a pie. The same can not be said about a 20oz soda after eating a fast food burger.
The historical method of dealing with public health concerns was to add "sin taxes" to the products, such as cigarettes and alcohol. Looking beyond the inherent regressivity of such a tax, one need look no farther than Washington State to see how well a soda tax would fair. Voter's inherent anti-tax bias combined with $15 million in American Beverage Association money killed any chance of starting a new tax on unhealthy drinks. Bloomberg's proposal will likely survive as it only needs to be approved by the NYC Board of Health.
This, of course, doesn't answer the ideological question around the role of government, but it does provide some proverbial food for thought.
The soda industry has spent countless dollars on advertising in order to convince consumers that drinking soda is as American as Apple Pie. Maybe they were closer than they knew.