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NYC Mayor Bloomberg Proposes a Ban on Soda to Combat Obesity

June 1, 2012

New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, wants to impose a ban on large servings of soda and other high sugar drinks in New York State. If the ban is approved it will be first of it’s kind in the United States.

The proposed ban would prohibit the sale of soda and other sugary drinks in an excess of 16 ounces. Bloomberg’s office claims that limiting serving size will encourage people to think before they purchase another drink thus decreasing the overall intake of sugary drinks state wide. This intern would decrease the obesity rate.

The ban requires approval by the New York City Board of Health and if approved could take affect as soon as March 2013. The far-reaching ban would affect movie theaters, restaurants, sports arenas and street vendors across New York state.

Obesity in America

Obesity in America has been rising since the 1980’s. Nearly 36 percent of American adults are obese, according to a 2010 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The survey also found that 17 percent of children are obese.

Obesity is defined as a BMI over 30. Body mass index (BMI) is ratio of a persons height (in inches) to their weight. The goal of BMI is to estimate body fat. However, there are limitations to the BMI calculations. For instance, body mass index makes the assumption that a person’s weight is directly related to the amount of fat in their body. However, athletes and people with more muscle mass will weigh more. BMI is also inaccurate when it comes to older people, we lose muscle mass as we age. Muscle weighs more than fat and results in weight loss in older age.

To accurately determine if you are obese it is best to use multiple measures. Waist circumference is a good indicator along with BMI of obesity. A waist circumference above 40 in for men and 35 in for woman increases your risk for obesity related diseases. There are also skin fold tests and blood tests that accurately measure the percentage of body fat.

Is Soda Really That Bad?

The obesity crisis in America is nothing new, so why is Bloomberg singling out soda as the culprit? Soda is a huge source of empty calories and sugar, both of which contribute to obesity.

A study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health found a strong correlation between heart disease and soda consumption. Even study participants that drank a moderate amount of sugary beverages, 1 per day, were 20 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease (ref.1). 

Opponents of the Harvard study say that sugar and soda aren’t the main culprits in the obesity crisis. Lack of exercise, stress and high fat diets all contribute to the problem. 

Americans drink a lot of soda, a 2009 Coca-Cola consumption per capita study found that Americans consume more than 4 times more soda - specifically Coke products - than the worldwide average.(ref.2) However, consumption has gone down over the last 10 years in America.

Can you have your Coke and drink it to?

Soda and sugary drinks can be consumed, in moderation. The American Heart Association suggests keeping your calories from sugary drinks under 450 per week. Which is essentially three 12 ounce cans per week.

Bloomberg’s proposed ban on soda aims at forcing people to consume in moderation. In an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show Mayor Bloomberg said:

“In the case of full sugar drinks in moderation they’re fine. All we are trying to do is explain to people if you drink a little bit less you’ll live longer, you’ll have a better life.” (View Clip)

Most people don’t agree with Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of large sodas. A Live poll on MSNBC shows that 82 percent of people don’t think the ban on sugary drinks will stop obesity. Those opposed to the idea feel that the ban is an infringement on personal freedom.

The New York City Beverage Association criticized the proposal telling the New York Times:

“The New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top. It’s time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity. These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.”

Large corporations like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have also spoken out about the proposed ban questioning the effectiveness and arguing for freedom of choice. 

Other critics of the large soda ban are concerned about the larger issue of whether or not the State can implementing regulations in the name of health.

One thing is certain, this issue has stirred up a lot of controversy. The proposal for Bloomberg’s large soda ban will be submitted to the New York City Board of Health June 12. Members of the board will have 3 months to comment and discuss the proposal before voting on the initiative.

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