A soda ban does not remove liberty – it puts power back in your hands

Image: Ben Ostrowsky/sylvar via Flickr

It’s such a simple and common sense idea that it’s amazing it didn’t happen sooner. On 1 June 2012, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to ban large servings of sugary and soft drinks (what they call soda in the US which is completely different from soda water). And when they say large servings, they mean large: in his plan, 32-ounce drinks will be banned (that’s just under one litre at 946mL!). You can still drink ridiculous amounts of the sugary drink of your choice, but you’ll have to buy two 16-ounce ones instead.

Why did the Mayor target the portion size of soft drinks instead of the fat and salt content in fried chicken or the portion size of hamburgers or the amount of butter in popcorn? The simplest answer may be that soft drinks (and alchohol) are full of empty calories. Despite “beer belly” being a mainstream phrase, many people are still unaware that the liquids they guzzle down contribute to weight gain and unlike milk or fresh juices, there is no nutritional value whatsoever in a bottle of fizzy pop.

However, rather than applauding this move to curb obesity, many have voiced their opposition against this plan to ban soda.

Unsurprisingly, the main outcry is coming from the drinks manufacturers themselves, like the tobacco companies before them. That’s understandable, it’s their product and hence their revenue that is coming under attack. But who else is complaining? How can people be angry that ridiculous bucket-sized beverages are being banned?

Rather than look at it from a healthcare point of view, many people seem to take offense and are condemning it as another example of a nanny state.

As the mayor says in this interview:

“We’re not banning you from getting the stuff,” he said on TODAY. “It’s just if you want 32 ounces, the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses. That’s not exactly taking away your freedoms. It’s not something the Founding Fathers fought for.”

There is an interesting discussion on the topic over at The New York Times, with some agreeing that it’s a good gesture but doomed for failure, and others thinking that a soda ban is not the right way to attack the obesity problem.

I for one, think this is a great idea. It’s not withholding the beverage from anyone, just making them stop for a second and think whether they really do want that second drink. It’s mindful eating at its simplest.  At the heart of Chinese medicine is one of moderation and balance. You can eat whatever you want but don’t get carried away and be excessive.

For those who actually do think this constitutes “government overreach”, here’s an inspired analysis of Bloomberg’s ban using the work of John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century English philosopher of liberty.

Do you think this plan has potential to improve the health of a city or even curb obesity? Or do you think it’s the government meddling into people’s lives unnecessarily? Share your thoughts below.

You might also like:

Food for thought | Mindful eating and Chinese medicine

Belly Fat is More Important than BMI in Determining Health

Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s