The New York City Board of Health recently approved a ban on the selling of supersized sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters, delis, arenas, workplace cafeterias and most other places selling prepared food. However, sugar addicts can still buy their Big Gulps and other huge drinks at convenience stores and supermarkets.
The Reformer thinks banning the sale of supersized drinks is fruitless, especially when you exempt some of the biggest purveyors of obesity in a disposable cup: According to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of people purchase sugary drinks at convenience and grocery stores.
As the News Journal’s Steve Goble noted "Sure, you can stop someone from buying a giant bucket of sugary fluid, but how are you going to stop him from buying two or three smaller ones? This ban might inconvenience the guy, but it isn’t going to stop him from sucking down all the soda his budget and bladder capacity will allow."
The ban is to go into effect next March.
New Yorkers for Beverage Choices is considering taking the Board of Health to court over its ban.
"It’s sad that the board wants to limit our choices. We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink," Liz Berman, president of Continental Food & Beverage Inc., and chair of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, told CSP Daily News, which bills itself as "The source for convenience news
More than 253,500 have joined the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition, as have more than 2,100 small businesses, who are concerned that the ban will put them at a competitive disadvantage, noted CSP Daily News.
"Reducing obesity is an important goal, but we want to partner with government to come up with effective ways to confront the problem. What we don’t need is more burdensome regulation making it harder for businesses to function and skewing the competitive landscape," Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association told CSP Daily News.
And a majority of New Yorkers do not support government limits on the size of beverages such as soda, juice drinks, teas, sports drinks and flavored waters. In a poll conducted by the New York Times, 60 percent of city residents believe the bill infringes on people’s freedom of choice.
Perhaps, as the Daily News suggested, states should prohibit food stamp recipients from purchasing sugary drinks with their government benefits.
As the Daily News noted, New York City Mayor Bloomberg and then-Gov. David Paterson tried to do that in 2010, citing the fact that neighborhoods with high obesity tended to be poor communities with high soda consumption.
According to one study, kids who drink a 121-ounce soda every day can gain 15 pounds in one year.
"The public should not be paying for sugar water that shortens lives and racks up huge medical bills," stated the Daily News.
Sixty percent of New York City adults, more than 3 million people, are overweight or obese, according to the Daily News, as are 40 percent of the city’s kids.
Obesity kills nearly 6,000 New Yorkers every year, making it the No. 2 killer in the city, behind smoking and across the Empire State, obesity-related medical care costs $8 billion a year.
None of that mattered however, especially to the business interests that profit from the marketing of unhealthy food and the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup.
"Sadly, we are currently subsidizing the wrong things, including the production of corn, which makes the corn syrup in sweetened beverages so inexpensive," wrote Mitchell H. Katz, MD, and Rajiv Bhatia, MD.
U.S. agricultural subsidies should instead "be used to make healthful foods such as locally grown vegetables, fruits, and whole grains less expensive."
The USDA, at the behest of "advocates for the poor" who claimed the food stamp proposal was an infringement of rights, rejected the Bloomberg/Paterson proposal.
While we disagree with the USDA and agree with Bloomberg and Paterson, we would take that one step further and insist that all junk food -- snack cakes, potato chips, candy, donuts, etc. -- be put on the prohibited list.
In addition, those foods and drinks should be taxed, with the proceeds going into obesity prevention and treatment programs and for people on supplemental assistance to buy health food.
As with many things in life, consumers fail to understand -- or simply ignore -- how consuming junk food and sugary drinks negatively affect their health and increase this nation’s health bill.
"Policies aimed at altering the price of soda or ... pizza may be effective mechanisms to steer U.S. adults toward a more healthful diet and help reduce long-term weight gain or insulin levels over time," wrote Penny Gordon-Larsen and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
A 10 percent increase in the price of soda was associated with a 7.12 percent decrease in calories consumed from it, while the same increase in the price of pizza led to an 11.5 percent drop.
In addition, $1 increase in soda prices equaled 124 fewer total daily calories, with an average weight loss of 2.34 pounds.
"Our results provide stronger evidence to support the potential health benefits of taxing selected foods and beverages," wrote Gordon-Larsen and her colleagues. "Similar taxation policies have proven a successful means of effectively reducing adult and teenage smoking."
While we believe the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a irreplaceable program, we’re not sure why we as taxpayers should subsidize bad habits that increase our waistlines and have exploded our obesity epidemic.
We also don’t believe a separate sales tax on junk food and sugary drinks (and that includes fruit juices, which have been implicated in increasing weights in our children) would be an unjustified burden on people willing to purchase comestibles that make us fat, give us diabetes and send our national health care bill through the hospital roof.