Come March 12, 2013, the city of New York might be saying, “Sayonara” to sugary drinks and sodas sold in containers larger than 16 oz., according to a new ban passed on September 13, 2012. Seeking to reduce the rising rate of obesity in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg championed the ban, calling it “…the single biggest step any city…has ever taken to curb obesity.” The ban affects establishments that are inspected by, and receive inspection grades from, the health department; this includes movie theatres, concession stands, restaurants and stadiums. Ironically enough, convenience stores and their soft drink sizes, like the Big Gulp from 7-Eleven (whose size ranges from 20 to 64 oz.), will be exempt.
The response from the public has been varied: both critics and supporters have voiced their opinions...
- Targeting specific container sizes will not change the behaviors of Americans – If people can buy one 16 oz. cup of their favorite sugary drink, they can certainly buy two, or three, or four...
- Americans already consume too much sugar in general – proposing a ban on over-sized sugary drinks might help Americans begin to choose smaller portions across the board.
Regardless of support or opposition, many don’t think the ban will stick, as there are ways around it: What stops someone from choosing to refill their 16 oz. cup at a McDonald’s? Or buying a super-sized slushy from a convenience store? Or guzzling down a 3 liter bottle of soda from a local grocery store?
So how much of a health impact will the ban on large beverages actually have? The verdict is still out. With a rule that contains exceptions ranging from convenience stores to vending machines, New Yorkers can still purchase their favorite drinks in any size they want from any of the exempt establishments, as well as consume as much as they want by buying multiple smaller drinks to equal one large drink. Other exemptions include beverages made from 100% juice, diet sodas and other calorie-free drinks, as well as any drink that is made with at least 50% milk or milk substitute.
Curbing obesity is the latest goal for Bloomberg, who has introduced public health policies such as the requirement that chain restaurants post calorie counts on their menus, and bans on smoking in bars and city parks. Some think Bloomberg has overstepped his bounds as mayor. Some commend him for his efforts. Still, there are others who say that the soda ban might not be enough to lower obesity rates.
In a country full of processed foods, an over-abundance of choices, and over-sized portions, we’ve become accustomed to eating and drinking whatever we want, and having as much as we want – which makes it difficult to determine what a normal-size portion should be. The initiative to cut down on high rates of diabetes and weight-related health issues needs to be an all-around change: Choosing better options for our bodies in the realms of food, drink and exercise.