One of the biggest stories of late for those of us who live in New York City is Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown on high-calorie soft drinks.
We don’t generally get political around here, but this story is interesting enough for an exception. The question on everybody’s lips is this: the Big Apple has a reputation for taking its citizens health seriously, but has it now gone too far?
Smoking has been banned in bars for as long as I can remember. Trans fats in foods have also been banned. Chain restaurants are required to list calorie counts on their menus. Now NYC has taken aim at sugary beverages, in what has popularly become known as the “soda ban.”
New York has become the first place in the country to bar restaurants, cafeterias and concessions stands from selling soda – other calorie-rich drinks – in containers larger than 16 ounces. No other U.S. city has attempted to fight America’s rapidly growing obesity problem by controlling portion sizes, but NYC’s Board of Health says they are willing to take dramatic action. “We are dealing with a crisis ... we need to act on this,” said Board of Health member Deepthiman Gowda, a professor of medicine at Columbia University.
Mayor Bloomberg, the leading advocate for the soda ban, also doesn't mince words on the subject. He has likened the crackdown on high-calorie sodas to banning lead paint, and cited the rising frequency in young children being diagnosed with a type of diabetes most often found in overweight adults.
The soda ban has received support from many of the weight loss industry’s leaders. "Today, we live in a world where despite our best intentions, it's oftentimes very difficult on your own to make the healthy choice," said David Burwick, president of Weight Watchers North America. "We all need to take more personal responsibility for our own weight and eating habits, but it helps to remember what a healthy portion size is in a world where super-size portions have become the norm."
In addition to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the South Beach Diet, The Best Life, and more have expressed their support.
Despite the backing from many prominent officials and weight loss experts, there are also many vocal opponents of the soda ban. Many believe that it infringes on a person’s basic right to make their own decisions about their health and wellness. A New York Times poll showed that six in ten New Yorkers opposed the plan, calling it a slippery slope that would lead to further infringement on personal freedom.
Where do you stand on the debate? Is the ban just looking out for your health, or is New York overstepping its bounds?