Soda ban fizzles out

David Olvera-Sanchez

(April 2, 2013) — Can you imagine a law that bans soda based on its size? Well, this legislation was a reality in New York City due to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s newest anti-obesity law that aimed to ban the sale of soft drinks over 16 oz. However, this month a New York judge thankfully struck down this law before it could wreak havoc on NYC society and economy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ending the obesity epidemic and increasing awareness of healthier food options. However, I also don’t believe that simply banning people from getting a large soda is ethically right nor will it solve the obesity problem. Under this proposal, all businesses within NYC would be banned from selling any soft drink products larger than 16 oz. in order to counteract the massive increase of obesity in this country. A 2009 study by the Center for Disease Control found that both the “indirect and direct cost of obesity is as high as $147 billion annually.” Many proponents of this soda ban bill use statistics like these to justify the bill because it would address an issue that in the end affects all taxpayers. However, I think that the principle of freedom overrides these costs and that if effective measures are proposed (i.e., education, offering healthier food options in lower-income schools and supermarkets), then the percentage of obesity can decrease. Additionally, this proposed anti-soda bill had many numerous loopholes which seemed to contradict many of its supposed intentions of fostering health. First of all, the ban did not include fruit juices and diet sodas. This is hypocritical because some juices have just as much sugar as sodas, and diet sodas often have artificial sweeteners that can also pose their own medical risks in the future. Other sugary beverages like chocolate milk and milkshakes are also exempt from this anti- sugary soda legislation. If the city was truly concerned with lessening the amount of sugar that its citizens were exposed to, then why not include these equally-sugary beverages in the legislation? Another loophole is that if people want more than 16 oz. of sugary soda, then they can purchase two bottles of soda-thus undermining the law’s whole purpose. Consequently, this could be interpreted this law as a covert attempt of the city to get money due to the additional taxes on bottled drinks. Furthermore, if this legislation is so concerned with limiting one’s consumption options in order to preserve people’s health, then why not ban alcohol, fatty foods or cigarettes? Legislation like this leads down a slippery slope of government involvement versus personal responsibility for one’s own health. Moreover, I believe the government should not dictate how much food or soda someone should consume. As prior bans such as Prohibition demonstrate, bans on consumption often prove to be ineffective. While it is important for the American public to consume less processed foods and sugary drinks, I do not believe that the answer to this monstrous obesity problem will be improved in the long-run by babying citizens into eating healthier foods. While I applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s true care for the health of his citizens, I believe that the cure to obesity lies in making healthy behavior and lifestyle changes. For example, if someone orders a small Coke but then continues to scarf down two Big Macs, their risk of obesity remains nearly the same than if they would have had a large Coke. So what’s next, banning food based on calorie content? To truly end the obesity epidemic, an emphasis on personal responsibility and healthy food choice education is needed. This “war on food” needs to turn into a “war on ignorance” in order for it to be successful.