The recent New York City sugary-drink ban has elicited controversy within the city limits and beyond. This measure would ban the sale of sugary drinks (with exceptions) in containers larger than 16 ounces at food service locations regulated by the New York City health department. These locations exclude grocery stores and convenience stores. Bloomberg lost the case for the ban twice in New York courts. This past July, it was struck down by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court; Mayor Bloomberg appealed the decision to the state’s Court of Appeals last month.

A Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing
by Jess Zalph
Food Editor

Of course, the phrase “it’s for your own good,” doesn’t strike a positive chord (I have heard criticisms of the proposed soda ban that range from nanny state to Orwellian.) Of course, soda, like most other things, will not destroy you as long as it is consumed responsibly and in reasonable portions. Of course nobody wants to feel that their freedom is being taken away from them.

What people do not seem to understand, however, is that the so-called ban is not unprecedented, and it is much more of a tax than a ban. As it is, one of the primary motivations for the tax on tobacco is “the interest of public health,” and this receives much less outcry.

The NYC law, should it be upheld, would not prevent people from buying as much soda as they want, but rather make it more inconvenient and a little more expensive. If you are going to a movie and think you will only enjoy it with 32 ounces of soda to keep you company, then by all means go ahead and buy two 16 ounce cups. As it is, a 16 ouncce cup of Coca-Cola has approximately 52 grams of sugar, or about 13 sugar cubes.

Speaking more generally, a decrease in size of sugary drinks offered might change the national perception of what is considered a normal size for unhealthy food. Soda companies and many fast food companies have embraced the advertising pitch that “bigger is better,” and this advertising has taught many people that what they truly want is unhealthy food in unhealthy sizes. Portion size in the United States has grown dramatically in recent decades, and it is one of the central causes of the rising rates of diabetes and obesity. Like many other taxes and regulations, the soda ban is simply a way of combating the influences of companies that have a stake in selling larger drinks.

Morally Opposed
by Andrew Ribner
Food Editor

I hate soda. I’ve always hated soda, and I have no intentions to drink it in any size. That said, I can’t stand by the sugary-drinks ban proposed by Mayor Bloomberg.

Consuming unnecessary calories is a bad idea. Got it. However, it’s not for anyone else to say what I can and can’t consume. I’m all for the idea that we should promote education on healthy consumption (i.e. don’t drink a lot of soda), but I can’t stand by the idea that someone should declare some foods as unlawful to purchase.

The proposed law risks tumbling down a slippery slope: 16 ounces of Coca-Cola contains roughly 52 grams of sugar, but two cookies from most New York City bakeries have more than that, and a single cupcake has within a few grams. If we are trying to limit sugar intake, it may make more sense to limit the amount a given person can buy from a bakery.

Sure, we are psychologically likely to drink more soda if there is more in front of us, but a soda addiction also means we’ll drink it more often.

There are far better alternatives to limiting sugar intake that do not require legislation that limits freedom. In following with the smoking analogy, the city could impose an increased tax on sugary drinks. Additionally, the city may integrate healthy eating more effectively in schooling at an early age (it would probably be a good idea anyway). Regardless, the government should not be able to limit the choices of its citizens.

Right Idea, Poor Execution
By Erica DeMichiel
Contributing Writer

When the New York City Board of Health voted in favor of a size limit on sugary beverages last September, many Americans rejected the seeming infringement on freedom. And yes, the right to choose is essential to our society’s foundation. As a nation, we take advantage of the liberties afforded to us. But in the midst of preserving our independence, we must remember that we should not merely be choosing. We should be choosing wisely.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 35 percent of American adults are considered obese. Obesity is known to cause additional complications like heart disease and high blood pressure, which inevitably lead to rising health care expenses. The CDC even reported that the approximate cost of caring for obesity per year was almost $147 billion as of 2008. And at the rate we’re going, these damages are sure to escalate in years to come.

Though Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban was deemed unconstitutional, his rationale had the people’s best interests at heart. But, however well intentioned, his legislation is flawed. While his plan would succeed in raising awareness of a public health crisis, it would not cover all sugary drinks in large sizes. Among those exempt are lattes and diet sodas.
Instead of restricted access to unhealthy products, what Americans really need is increased access to healthy ones. Eating local, organic foods can be expensive, but buying a two-liter bottle of soda hardly breaks the bank. The issue is a two-way street and should be viewed from both perspectives.

Bloomberg and the Board of Health had the beginnings of a good policy, but its execution fell flat. Americans are stubborn, so imposing limitations might not be the most effective way to enact legislation.

What we truly need is education regarding the amount of sugar and number of calories in each size of drink. But if we intend to begin reversing the effects of obesity, the challenge would be to make the healthy options more affordable than the unhealthy ones.


This article was edited on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Previously, the article indicated that the New York Court of Appeals struck down the NYC soda ban. Actually, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court struck down the ban and Mayor Bloomberg appealed the decision to the New York Court of Appeals. Furthermore, the phrase “The New York City law, should it be upheld,” originally read, “The New York City law, should it be passed.”

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