Health and Fitness Column

NYC's soda ban begins, but will obesity decline?

By John Taylor | Mar 12, 2013
John Taylor

Starting this week, NYC residents won’t be able to purchase soda drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. This means bars can’t sell larger party mixers for their drinks, and pizza places can’t sell two-liters for delivery and take-home orders.
Though the bill was passed nearly one year ago, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban is finally being implemented, which means restaurants, food carts, and coffee shops can no longer serve sweetened drinks in larger containers.
However, the debate in NYC town meeting has been the same; Does the government have the right to put a ban on beverages without a vote by the people, and will this policy really help decline the obesity rates?
To answer this question, let’s first look at Mayor Bloomberg’s motives. According to a 2010 study from the CDC, 69 percent of adults are overweight and 26 percent are obese, and as a result, Americans are facing higher risks of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
Bloomberg used these statistics to validate why he chose to push the soda ban without a vote by NYC citizens. Though he said the ban is to help preserve the long-term health of New Yorkers, Bloomberg’s actions have come under fire by those who say his political moves are unconstitutional. However, he wouldn’t be the first politician to force a law on citizens by claiming a health epidemic needed to be addressed.
In 1964, the Surgeon General’s Report detailed the harmful health effects of smoking, but permitted adult Americans to decide if they wanted to use these products. However, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani pushed for a $5.85 tax per pack of cigarettes in New York City while he was in office, which he said was meant to act as an economic deterrent to buying them.
Bloomberg also hopes to see the state of New York adopt this soda ban. If this occurs, grocery and convenience stores, which are regulated by the state and not the city, would also be outlawed from selling sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces.
This is not the first time Bloomberg has attempted to help NYC citizens live healthier lives. In 2008, he pushed a bill through city council that banned trans fat in food prepared by restaurants.
So will these bans on soda and trans fats lead to obesity rates in New York City to decline? I’m sure we’ll see in a few years after data is collected, but if these measures are proven to be successful, will more cities adopt these policies?
I’m interested to see how Coke and Pepsi would react if bans occurred throughout the country.
Would this mean 2-liters would become collector items? Could you imagine if 20 years from now, your grandchildren looked at a two-liter bottle and asked, “what is that thing for?” What if you told them that it was a container soda used to come in? Would they be in a state of disbelief and ask, “Why would people want to drink so much soda? Isn’t it bad for you?”
Kids do say the darndest things, right?