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Bloomberg's Sugar Ban: A Bust or a Beginning?

Resident says New York City mayor tried 'to help people to make a healthy choice by setting a standard.'

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large servings of sugar-sweetened beverages has been one of the most controversial policies in the battle against obesity.

The ban, however, was recently stopped only a day before it was intended to go into effect. And, unfortunately, as one would do with any excess beverage, the Bloomberg ban was quickly dumped down the proverbial drain.

Yes, the initiative had its faults and exceptions. Likewise, the food industry was looking for ways around it. First, Starbucks shrugged off the ban refusing to change drinks. Dunkin Donuts would have given customers syrup in a separate container necessitating the manual addition of such sugary sauce.

Furthermore, the ban would not have been enforced in convenience stores and bodegas. The judge that recently busted the ban wrote that the law would create “uneven enforcement, within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.”

So, for those against the ban, the victory is yours, for now. But, are you not standing up for something that ultimately is unhealthy for society? Bloomberg had stated that the ban was necessary to try to combat obesity in New York. The harsh reality of our society is that obesity kills. And, guess who is suffering the worst of this epidemic? 

Those most vulnerable are the poor. Would government roll back the smoking bans or sanctions on cell phone use while driving? Or hey, let’s just throw the “buckle up for safety” law right out the window.

Obviously, most people are going fight back when they see something as an infringement on their rights. They will ceaselessly play the “freedom” card. And don’t expect the food industry to forfeit any opportunity for further profit. Hey, it’s a free country. But, the ban did not mean the end of democracy in the United States nor did it signal the rise of a nanny state gone out of control. It represented the attempt to educate those who need it.

It was Bloomberg’s crack at a teachable moment. He merely wanted to help those who are suffer the most by setting a standard for “healthy” size. Bloomberg isn’t saying you can’t buy soda, he isn’t even saying you can’t drink it. He’s trying to help people to make a healthy choice by setting a standard.

The ban was a start to a compromise. The law would not have completely taken away these sugary drinks. It only would have limited portions and forced people to think twice before buying a second beverage.

The portion size ban would guide people in a healthy direction but not take away their humanity or dignity. By shrinking servings down from the default container size of 20 ounces to a more “human sized” 16 ounces, Kelly Brownell, Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said he believed most consumers would still feel satisfied even though they would drink less.

Obesity is an epidemic that has enormously significant health consequences resulting in exuberant health care costs. Mayor Bloomberg’s office tweeted that the city's board of health “has the legal authority and responsibility to tackle causes of the obesity epidemic, which kills 5,000 New Yorkers a year.”

The health risks remain evident. A 2004 Harvard University study showed that “women who drank one or more sugary drinks per day had an 83 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who infrequently consumed sugary drinks.”

Bloomberg’s public health effort will hopefully introduce a more comprehensive and potentially more effective obesity prevention policy in which the government can close the loopholes. Government cannot idly sit while our nation's children are victims of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. While Bloomberg had to eat a piece of humble pie in this first attempt of the super drink ban, I can assure you he would not opt for a “super” size drink to wash it down.

Alyssa LaGuardia

Wayne, NJ 

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