New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to face an avalanche of criticism after proposing a ban on the sale of super-sized sugary soft drinks, which raises the question: Is having a 32-oz. soda really a pressing civil-liberties issue?
Bloomberg underscored that his proposal is an attempt to address the alarming trend of obesity that has spread across New York City (and the United States), and is not meant to infringe on people’s personal freedoms.
Earlier this week, former President Bill Clinton, who now follows a vegan diet, endorsed the mayor’s proposal, calling childhood diabetes a serious health problem.
In defending his position, Bloomberg, 70, pointed to research indicating that people consume more when food and drink are served in larger portions.
“Scientific studies have shown what common sense already tells us: when larger portions are in front of people, they simply consume more, often without recognizing it,” the mayor wrote on his website. “In one study, people given sugary drink portion sizes 50% larger drank 20% to 33% more, without reducing food intake.
“People given 18 ounces (vs. 12 ounces) of beverage drank 10% to 26% more, with no decrease in food consumption and no difference in reported fullness or thirst.”
As a point of reference, the United States is the only country where gigantic sodas are sold. You won’t find people in Europe or Asia walking around the streets guzzling 32-oz. sodas.
Coincidentally (?), the incidences of obesity in those countries is far less than the U.S., notably, incidences of morbidly obese individuals (e.g. – people 100 pounds or more overweight).
7-Eleven’s 32-Oz. Big Gulp Drink Not Affected
The proposal, which has been erroneously hijacked by major media outlets as Bloomberg’s attempt to banish the 32-oz. Big Gulp drink sold at 7-Eleven, would ban the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, movie theaters, street vendors and stadium concession stands.
Contrary to numerous press reports, grocery and convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven) are not affected, and the ban does not apply to water, diet soda, coffee drinks, milk or milkshakes, fruit and vegetable juices or alcoholic beverages.
Bloomberg pointed to the nationwide spike in Type 2 diabetes, which is directly linked to obesity, inactivity and the consumption of high-sugar-content foods and soaring obesity levels in New York City.
“More than half of New York City adults (58%) are overweight or obese and nearly 40% of New York City’s public school students in grades K-8 are overweight or obese,” said Bloomberg. “We’re not banning you from getting the stuff. It’s just that if you want 32 ounces [of soda], the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses.”
“That’s not exactly taking away your freedoms. It’s not something the Founding Fathers fought for.”
[Update: The proposal was unanimously approved by the city’s 11-member Board of Health on June 12, 2012.]