Will New York’s Proposed Big Size Sugary Drink Ban Fizzle?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the sale of large-sized sodas or sugary drinks — the first in the nation — at restaurants, movie theaters and food carts, in an effort to combat obesity. More than half New York City’s adults are obese or overweight, says Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, and sweetened drinks are to blame for up to half of the rise in obesity rates.

Starting as early as March of next year, any sweetened drink that is 16 fluid ounces (equivalent to a medium-sized cup of coffee and smaller than the average soda bottle) or more would be banned. Included would be sugary drinks including soda, energy drinks and pre-sweetened ice tea, whether served in delis, fast-food restaurants or sports arenas.

The New York City Beverage Association is not happy, commenting about the “New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks” and how “zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done” in the fight against obesity. But Dr. Farley points out that obesity rates are higher in the city in areas where the consumption of sugary beverages is more common and that about a third of New Yorkers drink about one sugary drink per day.

The city’s Board of Health still needs to vote on the mayor’s proposal; as Bloomberg (dubbed “big soda Scrooge” in the New York Daily News) appointed all of its members, approval seems likely. The mayor has made public health a central feature of his tenure in office, having also banned smoking in restaurants and parks, prohibited the use of artificial trans fat in restaurant food and made it mandatory that health inspection grades be posted in restaurant windows.

How effective the big soda ban will be remains to be seen. One woman interviewed in the New York Daily News says she’ll just buy two medium sodas.

NPR’s The Salt blog suggests that the ban, while stemming from the best intentions, may not affect obesity rates at all. The proposed ban does not affect a whole other category of large-size drinks, those containing at least 70 percent fruit juice as well as lattes, coffee drinks or milkshakes that contain at least 51 percent dairy (and an awful lot of calories). David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University, points out that the ban overlooks why people tend to buy large-size sodas, because they see the price per ounce and realize they get more (literally) for their money.

In Cornell’s experiments on food and behavior, if people are told that they can’t have a large size for health reasons, they tend to fight it. So for example, instead of a 64 oz. soda, they may go buy eight 8 ounce bottles, he says.

Also, Just says, soda is just one small piece of the obesity puzzle, and it’s ultimately pretty hard to pin a whole epidemic on one item.

Still, keep in mind how supersized servings of drinks and food have become in the past 50 years in the US. In the 1950s, a 7 ounce soda was the norm. By those standards, 16 ounces of a sugary drink is plenty — and, indeed, there’s no ban on how big a serving of plain old water we, or New Yorkers, can drink.


Related Care2 Coverage

Donut Blues: Does Eating High-Fat Foods Make Us Depressed?

Why It Is In Our Best Economic Interest to Fight Obesity

Supersize Portions Are the New (Ab)Normal in the US (Infographic)


Photo by Ian Wilson


Daniel N
Daniel N2 months ago

Thanks very much

W. C
W. C9 months ago

Thanks for the information.

William C
William C9 months ago

Thank you.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Why not just reduce the sugar content in all sizes of drink?

federico bortoletto

E' una buona notizia?

Ann G.
Ann G6 years ago

Even if this ban won't really fix the problem, it might make some people less likely to drink the big sodas. Since there are no foreseen bad consequences, even though the good effects might be small the bill is still a good idea.

lis Gunn
lis Gunn6 years ago

Individual freedom seems hard wired into the American psyche so that the attitude of "No one can tell me what to eat or drink me what to eat or drink" is so prevalent.
Governments at all levels are charged with protecting the health of the population, just as much as protecting the nation from terrorism or invasion. I just cannot understand why so many people are against disease causing obesity and substances which encourage it.

I understand that obesity cost New York some $4 billion last year. If that figure is anywhere near accurate, perhaps it is time to "pay for individual freedom".

John S.
Past Member 6 years ago

I don't know why you just wouldn't increase the taxes on them.

ii q.
g d c6 years ago

banning will just make some people wwant it more...