As we’re sure many of you have read, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning on enacting a city-wide ban on the sale of soda and other sugary drinks in cups over 16 ounces in size. So now when you go to see the latest summer blockbuster, you won’t be able to order a large Dr. Pepper, which currently comes in at 44 ounces, almost three times the proposed limit. Is this the path to a less obese society? There has been plenty of press in support along with plenty of criticism.
Detractors of the ban cite the emergence of Big Brother as one of the most prominent arguments. How far should the government go in telling us how to live our lives? What about consumer choice? Is it their job to save us from ourselves? That aside, how effective will this be at actually reducing waistlines? Individuals can still purchase multiple cups and hit the ever-convenient “free refill” station. Also, some beverages not on the banned list, for instance sugar-rich juices, actually have more calories than some sodas. Are we missing out on an opportunity to educate individuals around nutrition versus a single sweeping assumption that may or may not drive change? Are our health improvement dollars, and social clout, better invested elsewhere, especially considering the exorbitant cost to implement and enforce this ban?
Supporters of Bloomberg’s proposal say it’s a step in the right direction. Portion control is a huge contributor driving obesity. Granted, it still matters what you put on that smaller plate, but when it comes to limiting calories, in general, less is more. In addition, making it more difficult to drink a larger quantity of Mountain Dew, even if only slightly more challenging, does begin to help moderate your ability, one of the necessary components in behavior change. Some note that the holes in the list of impacted drinks could actually be a positive – “small steps to a greater goal” rather than an audacious and complex action. It’s certainly a health improvement philosophy we share. As for Big Brother, the overlaying question remains - is obesity an issue that only affects the obese individual? Banning smoking in public places directly removes harmful secondhand smoke from those that do not smoke. Does the cost of obesity have an effect on all of us?
The debate lit up the email boxes and break rooms at RedBrick too, and as we jabbed back and forth on this issue, one thing did become clear: Ideal or otherwise, the proposal fanned the flames of a conversation that needs to continue to grow in scope and urgency. In shooting down the proposal, many presented ideas of their own. The brilliance of Bloomberg’s plan may be that it is so broad and ambiguous that it has convened a virtual nationwide think tank of wellness ideas.
“Make restrictions more specific based on actual nutrition levels versus broad categories that do little to educate”
“Fund a curriculum to teach children how to read nutritional labels”
“Invest in devices so city farmers markets can accept food stamp debit cards”
Good or bad, a proposal like this can help spur and crystallize greater ideas and potentially better investments – a win no matter which side you’re on.
So the next time you’re watching the latest Iron Man versus Alien super-flick and you order that giant tub of popcorn saturated in salt and butter, think about washing it down with a super-sized glass of water.
What are your thoughts on banning the Big Gulp? How would you improve the proposal?