New York's Mayor Wants to Ban Large Sugary Drinks

Will Michael Bloomberg's proposal be a blip on the radar or the start of a national trend?
The days of, 'I'll have a large soda' may be numbered. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty)
May 31, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

New Yorkers will have to be satisfied with smaller gulps from now on. The city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, wants to enact a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16-fluid ounces. “The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas,” reports The New York Times.

While some have taken to calling the mayor “Nanny Bloomberg” for his intrusions into the lives of city residents, this proposal shouldn’t come as that much of surprise following his campaigns to ban smoking in all city bars, restaurants, public parks, and beaches; prohibit artificial trans fats in restaurants; and limit the use of salt and the sale of alcohol.

But this trend doesn’t stop once you reach outside the city. Currently, 27 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants. At the same time, bans against artificial trans fats in restaurants has spread across the country, with laws enacted in cities throughout New York state, Philadelphia, Boston, Montgomery County, Maryland, King County, Washington, and the entire state of California. Even Canada got in the act when Calgary became the first city in the country to ban trans fats in restaurants and fast food chains.

Despite public protestations, limiting access to certain foods does seem to be having an effect. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that, “Five years after California started cracking down on junk food in school cafeterias, a new report shows that high school students there consume fewer calories and less fat and sugar at school than students in other states.”

And when it comes to sugary drinks, the Harvard School of Public Health seems to fall in Bloomberg’s court. In a 2011 release they quoted Steven Gortmaker, a health sociology professor at the school, as stating, “By imposing tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and limiting marketing of unhealthy foods to children, governments can lead in making it easier for children to make healthy choices.”

But it’s hard to say if Bloomberg’s ban will really have an effect since there are some simple, and obvious, loopholes. For example, restaurants with self-serve soda fountains would be required to hand out 16-ounce cups, but customers will still be allowed free refills. And of course, at other establishments, you could just buy two 16-ounce drinks if you’re willing and able to shell out the extra money. But, who knows, like smoking and trans fats before it, perhaps soda is the new frontier in the government’s effort to make us healthy—whether we like it or not.

Do you think Mayor Bloomberg and other public officials have gone too far?

Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence

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