18 Responses to “Let’s debate: Ban on large sugar-filled drinks at restaurants”


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  1. Basically, I agree with what you said at the end: if someone really wants more soda, they’ll just buy a second (or third) one. It seems like the issue is so large (no pun intended) that no one really knows where to begin—so instead, they put a band aid on a gaping wound.

  2. Stephanie

    I think we need to do more for people who are going unfed or underfed right now. We have so many hungry people in this country, the idea that we would rather tell people what they cannot eat than spend the money making sure people are fed really bothers me.

  3. I find this ban quite interesting and I think its just a crusade to say they are doing something. Banning larger size sodas is not going to fix anything. One of the problems we have is portion sizes all around, not just soda. But more importantly this country suffers from a severe lack of physical activity and exercise.

    I applaud that they are making an effort at all but I do think the effort is being misplaced.

    Education is key but getting people to listen and understand is a huge battle.

  4. Rebecca

    I’m an NYC resident, I work in politics, I am a health & food policy graduate student and an all-around policy wonk.

    Bloomberg’s plan is a nuanced response to a confounding problem in our city and nation at large. It is also, not surprisingly, contested–especially within Libertarian-minded groups.

    I am a firm believer that a great deal of our obesity epidemic is due to social stratification (my background is in Sociology), and I am in agreement that we need to ameliorate food deserts. Bloomberg’s plan 2030 initiative–which I suggest you look into for a more comprehensive look at what’s going on in NYC–will address such issues with Green Carts and the like. However, and this is a big however, changing the social landscape is a long, arduous process that will require a policy overhaul that’s very unlikely to happen during any one administration’s tenure–or even our lifetimes!

    The fact of the matter is that, in overweight and obese people, excess calories can be largely attributed to soft drinks. Studies have proven time and time again that when one is presented with a large size they will consume more than if given a smaller amount. In addition, there’s a paralysis of choice element–when trying to figure out what to feed yourself and/or your family, there are too many options that make decisions difficult. Obesity and low socio-economic status are highly correlated; where there are fewer resources there are fewer healthy options, so low SES individuals face dismal options when it comes time to feed themselves. Remember the demographic this soda ban addresses–these people shop at neighborhood bodegas in communities that are culturally bound. In such environments, healthy foods are not profitable and are not provided.

    I urge you to think critically about your sentiments. Does this really impinge on your civil liberties? I’d argue it doesn’t. The “slippery slope” idea is also unfounded as you can’t determine causation from an isolated event. This is not a band-aid but rather a precursor to bringing greater awareness and aid to those who so desperately need it.

    The point of government is to make decisions in the best interest of the people. Americans are alienated from this because we’ve perpetuated the idea that every stance must be represented, when, very often, decisions need to be made to address a greater problem that is outside of the layperson’s realm. You may feel that this ban is detrimental to your rights, but you can still purchase soda in large quantities. What kind of society are we if we don’t take care of each other? We have a responsibility to the sick, elderly, disabled, underserved and marginalized to take an inclusive approach. Think about it this way: our economy, civility quotients and education rates can only improve if we raise our standards and help each other.

    I leave you with this fact: no developed nation has EVER been able to sustain itself spending upwards of 30% of its GDP on health care. Sugar consumption and obesity–which are highly linked–lead to health care costs that cause our nation more money than anyone would care to admit. Why not take a note from Japan and utilize a preventative-care model (look at their epidemiological trends and how much they spend on health care and you’d be on board!)? Access to health care should be a basic human right, but, because we’ve fostered an elitist attitude towards such things, we’re facing an uphill battle in health policy reform.

    Obviously I could talk all day about this subject. I hope my perspective helps give you a different perspective on the matter.

    • RhodeyGirlTests

      @Rebecca, Thank you so much for this comment. You make some great points that I had not even considered. Do you think that banning a specific size would make a difference in the issues you discuss above? Wouldn’t Philly’s Eat Right Philly initiative be a better approach? If we’re talking about preventative care, does it not make more sense to teach about nutritious options and provide nutritious options rather than limit the sugary drinks?

      What are your thoughts on the government working harder to provide a clean food supply?

      I am obviously not very well versed in this subject, but it interests me greatly and I’d love to think and learn more about it and other’s opinions on it as well.

  5. Rebecca

    Philadelphia’s Eat Right initiative certainly addresses the lack of nutrition education in low SES children–that, I’m all for! There are similar efforts in NYC, many of which have had high success rates, but none stand to undo the teachings of older teens and adults. This is precisely why the large soda ban is in place; taking an option off the table for people who are used to having free reign to choose unhealthy food and drink frames the issue in a more comprehensible manner for people of poor health.

    In my ideal world all government subsidies of corn and wheat would end and we’d get private industry out of the government’s bed (I won’t recap the political origins of the subsidies (mostly rooted in Iowa), but it illuminates the root of many of our health problems). If I were to design the system myself, I’d transfer all of those funds to local farmers to bring fresh produce to those in food deserts and change patterns of availability, hopefully effecting what our habits look like. In this format, the foods that are currently cheap and accessibly would flip-flop with the opposite–the good food–and people below the poverty wouldn’t have a choice to eat the crappy foods without spending more. For someone of a low SES, a price increase of even 50 cents or $1 is prohibitive, and for people for whom affording food is less of a struggle, this shift would be of less consequence.

    Bloomberg’s initiative has received a lot of slack and I’m sure this stance will, too as the popular ‘infringement on civil liberties’ case can be made. What’s necessary to understand is this: the unhealthy stuff is not going away. It’s still available, it’s just less attractive because people have to make a slightly bigger effort to get it, which is a proven deterrent. How many times have you thought to yourself “Oh wow, xyz would taste amazing right now, but it’s all the way over there/at that store/I don’t want to spend money”? Same principle applies.

    So, to get back to your original question…do I think that banning large sized sodas will change anything? Honestly, I don’t think we’re going to see a drop in obesity or diabetes rates–there isn’t enough incentive for individuals to make changes to dramatically alter their lifestyles. (Bloomberg was smart to address soda, though, because it’s void of nutrition, is consumed in mass quantities and has been identified as a leading culprit for excess caloric intake). I do, however, see this ban as part of the larger health policy fabric and greater plans in the works. There are so many moving parts in policy and it’s very rare that the efforts line up and make it to the stage that this one has. I see it as a success because people are talking about the issue and it’s moving the attention back to health, health care, rights and thoughts about how we raise our children. I’m hopeful that this will initiate some dialogue and creative problem solving!

  6. Karina

    Coporations receive millions and millions of dollars of subsadies a year which make junk food and those unhappy chickens cheaper than the organic local farmers that do not get the government subsidy. Small business’ are burdened with tax etc etc.

    You are right, taxing soda isn’t going to go very far and it begs the questions if the motive behind the tax is really income for the city and not the health of the city.

  7. Diana

    This is a fantastic post and a topic I need to educate myself more on. Thanks Sabrina! I’ll be following the comments to learn more…

  8. RhodeyGirlTests

    This is an interesting article on the American diet. http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/06/american-diet-one-chart

  9. Wow…Rebecca! I could (and would love to!) Listen to.you all day! Such a well educated comment stated eloquently and inviting questions and discussion!

    • Rebecca

      @Sarah Anne,

      Wow, thank you! What a lovely and heartwarming comment :). My favorite word is eloquence, and I’m so glad you used that to describe my comment–it’s an aspiration of mine to be perceived that way.

      I’m so passionate about this topic and hope to have a career in health and food policy! I’m so glad Sabrina chose to address this issue. Healthy living blogs can be a great platform for discussion!

  10. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago (http://pickyandhealthy.com/2012/06/02/new-york-city-sugary-drinks-ban/). Even after writing the post I’m still not sure what my opinion is or isn’t. I do think that soda (and other sugary drink sales) should be banned to children. I’ve been watching the Weight of the National documentary on HBO and they keep citing what percentage of American’s calories come from drinks and it’s frighteningly high (I can’t remember the number) so I think attempting to stop it in children would be great.

    That said, I don’t like the government telling me what I can and can’t do to my body. I do agree with you about the need to get hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful additives out of our food. But that’s such a macro thing that if something more micro, like a sugar drinks ban could help, I’m not 100% opposed to it.

  11. Bridget

    COMPLETELY Agree with this. Clearly a very educated and well voiced opinion. Also completely agree with Rebecca’s analysis of the situation. As a RD who worked with pediatric obesity in Washington DC and Philadelphia, who know works as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in primary care (in Philly), I really believe that we need to change our environment as a society rather than educate. I spent 6 years of educating obese children and families on healthy options and choices, most of whom live in “food desserts” and I really believe its an environmental and cultural problem, not a lack of education. Most people know what they SHOULD eat, but if its culturally never been in their lives, their parents lives, and they have junk food on every corner, their behaviors are not going to change. I’m interested to see what the Philly programs are going to find, but I have low hopes for changing behaviors. I support the New York ban, and further taxing junk food and foods with low nutrient density–I agree that a government’s actions should be in the best interest of the people, and I think that with obesity we need to take drastic actions to promote healthy foods and nutritious choices in our environment to change our culture.

    p.s. Sabrina, I grew up in RI, and am also now in Philly, and recently found your blog…love the Philly/RI references!

  12. Kate

    “I am not a fan of the government making choices for me and deciding what is good and not good for me.”

    I think it’s interesting that there isn’t the realization that this is what government does and has always done and in fact is why we have it and select officials for the job. And it’s why we have huge-sized sugar filled drinks in the first place. The government has made accessible all kinds of foods and beverages with ingredients that should never have been made available. It’s about time the government did something that they should have been doing, provide protection/regulation around the foods that are consumed, protecting peoples health. There are all kinds of regulations around safety for example but amazingly little around food — the ingredients, how it is combined, prepared, raised etc. I think it’s interesting that people are up in arms about being limited on food/drink that should never have been manufactured or allowed to be manufactured to begin with. The economy has come before people and it’s to the detriment to everyones health and the quality of life of society.

  13. I think that if you are going to ban large sugar drinks at resturaunts then you need tto basically ban every drink at Starbucks aside from coffee. I don’t think it needs to be banned. I am a big supporter in a tax on soft drinks (diet included) just like we tax cigarettes. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I DO think our country is about to face a healthcare crisis like we’ve seen before due to obesity. We need to do something. But I don’t wantt he government to tell me I CAN NOT have something but rather they should tax it. And then if I choose to consume it I assumme the higher cost for that poor choice.

  14. Ginny

    @ Rebecca I beg to differ on the point of government. The purpose of our government is to uphold the constitution, period. “decisions need to be made to address a greater problem that is outside of the layperson’s realm” REALLY? I am pretty sure the average American is capable of figuring out how much soda they want to drink.

    • Kate


      ” I am pretty sure the average American is capable of figuring out how much soda they want to drink.”

      Really? With the obesity rate steadily increasing at an alarming rate and with diabetes on the rise for the young (scary numbers are readily available for both) — I don’t see how it can be stated that the “average American” is capable of figuring this out when the “average American” is now obese, the average American has health problems.

  15. KT

    As a fellow graduate student of food policy, this has been a hot topic of late. After numerous discussions, I like to think of it like this: for educated, privileged people, this seems like government overstepping its boundaries and will likely be ineffective. However, it sets precedent and may lead to further bans, warnings, and a general understanding of health practices for less-educated groups, and could eventually have a similar outcome to haveing warnings, taxes, and age limits required for smoking products. I think it is sad that it has come to this, but if given enough support, it could help curb unhealthy habits for the populice most at risk and likely to purchase these items without fully recognizing the health implications.

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