Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large size sodas is expected to become law on Thursday, the 13th. New Yorkers by a large margin have taken issue with this. A recent poll (with a +/- margin of 3%) shows that on average, 49% of city residents oppose the plan. The percentage was far higher in the boroughs where the majority of the population is non-white and statistically speaking, drink more soda.
According the the NYT Bob Barocas, 64, of Queens, put it more bluntly: “This is like the nanny state going off the wall.” Is this the case? Obesity is a national concern which is certainly impacted by the large quantity of sugar in soda. While I agree we should make healthier eating choices, I don’t agree that the choice should be forced. The ban on using hydrogenated oils in restaurants targeted a public health issue that was largely unknown to consumers who were not making a conscious choice to eat less healthy (though one could argue that many of the places that used the oil were unhealthy to begin with). Large size drinks on the other are an active personal choice.
The ban targets the containers these drinks are served in, forcing the consumer who will not change their habits, to spend more money purchasing the same quantity in smaller containers. As the ban will affect the boroughs more, in some cases it will put this monetary change on the residents who can afford it less. Perhaps we’ll begin seeing people walking around with a liter bottle of soda instead of a Big Gulp.
The ban does not effect diet sodas. True, you can’t gain weight from them. While diet soda doesn’t carry the same obesity risks, it can’t be called healthy (though I drink plenty of it myself).
The issue at the heart of this change comes down to whether the local government should be allowed to tell its residents what they can and can’t imbibe. With two food related bans in place, will it expand further? I do feel that the government has gone too far (and I’m not even a libertarian). A group called NYAD (New York Art Department) was hired by Mountain Dew to design prohibition cans. They said of the project:
As we started playing around with the brand’s vintage soda bottles and cans, a different conversation around soda began picking up momentum in the city: A proposed city-wide ban on drinks larger than 16oz. We dismissed it at first but, as the topic gained steam, we thought: “What next, back to Prohibition… ?” New York Art Department is about self-expression and individual choices; so the Prohibition parallel struck a chord. From that point on, it all happened fast.
It will be interesting to watch this change and discover whether the average New Yorker comes to terms with the mandate. Some have said that the change won’t affect their choice. If it does become accepted there, further cities might follow. I haven’t had many Big Gulps, but I may need one more for the road.