Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Burton
A New York state judge struck down Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial ban on large sodas on Monday, arguing that the restrictions on sugary sweetened drinks did not make sense, partly because the ban wasn’t evenly enforced.The measure, approved by the New York City board of Health last September, banned the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at New York City restaurants, street vendors, delis, and movie theatres.
The crackdown controversially did not apply to grocery stores or convenience stores.
The opposition also took issue with other arbitrary components of the legislation. Why, for example were high-sugar, high-caloric drinks like milkshakes and alcoholic beverages allowed while sugary sweetened drinks like soda and lemonade were not?
The judge also questioned the science behind the soda ban, which was crafted to curb obesity and obesity-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease in New York City.
A presentation put together by Bloomberg’s office last year attributes 5,800 deaths and $4 billion in medical costs in New York City to obesity.
The leading cause of this obesity epidemic? Sugary drinks, they said.
The city projected that if New Yorkers substituted a 16-ounce sugary drink for a 20-ounce sugary drink once every two weeks then we would “collectively save around 2.3 million pounds in one year.”
The link between sugary drinks and getting fat was further supported by data released by the Mayor’s office on Monday. The data showed that neighborhoods that consumed more sugary drinks had higher obesity and diabetes rates (see the charts on the right).Correlation, however, does not necessarily mean causation. For example, it’s very likely that the kind of people who drink oversized sodas are also chowing down on greasy cheeseburgers, french fries and other junk foods.
That’s where New York Health Commissioner Thomas Farley points out that it’s not just the calories and sugar in targeted drinks that make us gain weight. Size matters from a psychological standpoint, too.
“People are beginning to recognise that soda is bad for you, that soda makes you gain weight, but it’s tough for people to recognise that we are driven largely by the portions that are put in front of us,” Farley said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
Not only do we regulate our appetite based on the amount of food or drink placed in front of us, but we also blindly accept the beverage industry’s sizes as a general guideline for how much we should consume.
As studies have shown, the existence of a 40-ounce options makes people think that a 20-ounce size is reasonable. Eliminating that option, however, makes people more likely to view the 20 as extravagant and choose the 12-ounce instead.
Obesity is certainly a national health crisis, as more than one-third of American adults are obese. While Bloomberg’s initiative was poorly structured and unpopular, the real tragedy is that the obesity epidemic lives on.
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