Pondering Public Policy
I effing love alliteration in the titles of my posts. It’s just so catchy.
If you haven’t already heard, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has proposed a ‘soda ban’. The ban isn’t really a ban, per se. The law, should it be passed, says that sodas larger than 16 oz. cannot be sold in venues regulated by the Health Department (i.e. delis, food trucks, restaurants, etc.). This does not mean you cannot purchase multiple sodas nor does it mean you cannot purchase soda anywhere, it is still available at grocery and convenience stores.
To help you gauge portion size: the official serving size of a glass of regular, sugar sweetened Coca Cola is 8 oz.
A 16 oz bottle, which is a smaller bottle, contains 200 calories with 54g pure sugar (and some chemicals/dyes). A 20 oz bottle, the normal bottle size, is 240 calories and 64g sugar. A can, surprisingly small and easy to down, packs a nutritional punch (to the face).
The arguments against the ban intrigue me. Mostly dolled out by the beverage industry, they include:
- taking away the people’s freedom of choice
- soft drinks are a treat to be enjoyed in moderation
- it won’t do anything
- “what’s next?!” (as in, what will they take from us next)
- it will hurt small business
- Etcetera etcetera so on and so forth.
To these arguments I have to say:
- The people still have the choice to buy soda. Just one serving at a time. If they want multiple servings, buy multiple sodas. It will make them think maybe just a millisecond longer.
- True. (If you like them, I think they’re disgusting.) However, how many people do you know who actually drink soda as a treat and not just a drink along with their meal? Most people think nothing of it.
- It may or it may not. It’s a start. It also might help bring portion size to light in a few people. Those few people might turn their ways around. That will, in time, save people from paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills for the folks who were ‘enlightened’. (True, an overly optimistic point of view, but I like to dream big)
- What’s next? They haven’t taken anything. There will still be gallons upon gallons upon gallons of soda in your supermarket.
- Dubious. How many businesses survives solely on soda sales? The soda companies. That’s all I can think of.
Moreover, I’d like to point out that this is a lot of hubub over a small, small move. Like I said, folks can still buy multiple sodas if they really want more. The ban also does not apply to fruit juices (equally sugary/caloric), diet sodas, or soda you drink at home (herpderp).
This debacle also got me thinking about the constant comparison between the obesity epidemic/junk food/food politics vs. smoking – a comparison that is oft referenced. The problem with this analogy is that people do not need to smoke to live, but people do need to eat and they should have the freedom to choose what it is they put in their bodies. I concur. However, soda is not required to live. Nor fastfood, processed snack bars, and Fritos.
These things provide little sustenance beyond empty calories. One can survive off of them, but our current status quo says otherwise regarding one’s ability to thrive on such a diet. I shall leave you with the same parting image that Dr. Marion Nestle did on the subject at her blog: