New York fights to ban sugary drinks
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 23:03
A judge struck down the ban on large sugary drinks in New York the day before it was supposed to take effect, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg is determined to fight the ruling. Bloomberg has won appeals on previous health-related policy initiatives such as his smoking ban and calorie count requirements. However, this is Bloomberg’s last term, and only time will tell if he will successfully defeat this latest challenge.
The ban would have made illegal the sale of sugary drinks bigger than 16 ounces in New York City food-service establishments. The penalty for vendors that did not comply would have been $200. Only businesses that were under the jurisdiction of the health department would have been affected. Grocery and convenience stores would have remained unrestricted. Furthermore, milk-based drinks such as milkshakes would have also been saved from a “verboten” stamp. Other drinks, such as sweetened coffees, were not addressed, leaving some establishments unsure of whether they would be fined.
The ban has been criticized for being capricious. It only applies to some food establishments and leaves out beverages that have more sugar than others. It would have gone into effect last Tuesday if not for the suit filed against it by the American Beverage Association, which represented companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple. The mayor writes this challenge off as special interest groups trying to thwart his revolutionary policy.
Michael DiMaio, an 8th-semester political science and economics double major says, “I find efforts to reduce total sugar consumption worthwhile for the health of society long-term, but I am not sure if this is the best approach to achieve that goal.”
DiMaio compares the ban to legislation that requires bikers to wear helmets. He relates the tensions between restrictions on the personal freedom of riders and the harm to the community that could ensue should an individual be injured while not wearing a helmet.
DiMaio can see a justification for the law in this way: “by consuming high amounts of soda, individuals can develop serious disabilities such as diabetes, leading to a greater strain on the total health costs of the society, and in turn leading to relative rationing of the health spending on other individuals.”
Emily Jeagal, a 4th-semester nutrition major, says that she doesn’t believe sugar to be the biggest health problem worth addressing. She personally does not drink soda, but believes processed foods are a bigger threat to our health.
Jeagal points out “even if there was a ban on the size of sodas, people could just buy as many sodas as they wanted.” Many New Yorkers feel that Mayor Bloomberg is infringing on their personal rights. Jeagal agrees, “We should all have free choice. Drinking soda is not a danger to others, only to you. They [the government] can’t control people like that.”
Only time will tell who will win the war on large sugary drinks.