Supersized reactions to Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban plan

Here’s a glimpse of just some of the commentary on NY mayor Bloomberg’s call for a ban on supersized soda in any public place regulated by the city health department. It’s become a battle of clever headlines:

Soda Jerk

Soda Plan Fizzles

Sugar Daddy

City Health Weasels Go “Pop”

On, William Saletan called Bloomberg a hypocrite:

“…the harder Bloomberg presses, the more he’s outed. He’s been caught salting pizza and bagels. He drinks three or four cups of coffee a day. NBC’s Matt Lauer recently grilled him about his proclamation honoring “NYC Donut Day.” The mayor replied, “One donut’s not going to hurt you. In moderation, anything — most things are OK. … That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with soft drinks, is get you to drink in moderation.”

Really? Bloomberg believes in moderation? Then let’s talk about the wiener orgies.

12 minutes, 50 wieners

The orgies take place every year in Coney Island. They’re broadcast live on ESPN. They’re known as the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. In 10 minutes, contestants stuff as many hot dogs down their throats as they can. During Bloomberg’s tenure, the record has increased from 50 to 68. It’s pornography for gluttons.

Year after year, Bloomberg officiates at the weighing-in ceremony, praises the contestants for gorging themselves, and brags about the millions of people watching on TV.”

On, Brian Wansink and David Just wrote: “How Bloomberg’s Soft Drink Ban Will Backfire on NYC Public Health.”

The New York mayor defends his prohibition on sugary drinks with an appeal to science, but the very people who carried out the studies in question say he’s misread their work.

A web search could give you a weekend of reading and you still wouldn’t catch up. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has hammered Bloomberg in a series of shows in recent weeks. Here’s one:

Not all think it’s such a bad idea.

In the Kansas City Star, Barbara Shelly wrote, “Why we should all cheer Bloomberg’s soda policy,” noting how majors in Kansas City, Newark, Oklahoma City, Boston and San Diego have also taken public steps to promote healthy weight.

And one of our expert editors, Harold Demonaco, MS, wrote the following:

Whether you agree or not with Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to banish 32 ounce soft drinks from the streets of New York, you have to give him credit for highlighting the problem of “supersizing.”

In a perfect world, people would understand the consequences of their actions and a Big Brother approach would not be necessary.  After all, shouldn’t adults be allowed to decide what to eat and drink?  The obvious answer is yes.

Two recently published studies provide a bit more insight into the issues surrounding over consumption.

A study  published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that regulation of nutritional content of foods can make a big difference in school aged children.  California regulates the food and beverages available to students in the schools. This includes cafeteria foods and beverages as well as those sold elsewhere in the school.  On average, California students consumed about 160 fewer calories daily than their counterparts in the 14 states studied that do not regulate foods in schools.  That’s equal to a bit more than half of a 32 ounce soda a day.  Maybe regulations do work!  But of course, we are talking about children………………

Dan Ariely and colleagues published a study in February looking at what would happen if you simply invited people to downsize a portion of their meals.  Surprisingly, about one third of people asked did reduce their portion size and did so whether they received a discount or not.  They effectively reduce their calorie consumption by about 200 calories.   And they did so without changing the amount of leftovers.

I stumbled over a really interesting body weight simulator  from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders.  With it, you can see what changes to your caloric intake and exercise will do to your weight, body composition and body mass index over time.

I ran the simulator to see what would happen if I drank a 32 ounce soda daily for a year.  That’s 310 extra calories a day.  My weight went from 175 pounds to 189 pounds.  And that is despite my daily exercise routine.  To rid myself of the extra pounds, I would need to increase my exercise commitment by 80% (that’s an extra 45 minutes on the accursed spinning bike daily).  Without additional exercise, I would weigh about 200 pounds at year two.

Over 60% of adults in the US are overweight and just about 30% are classified as obese.  The causes are complex and the fixes are not easily apparent.  What is apparent however is that the present course will only lead to the obesity problem getting worse.


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Dawn Lerman

June 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The problem of obesity in the United States goes deeper than just cutting back on one item in New York City. While Mayor Bloomberg’s heart is in the right place, this will not bring complete change to New York. If we want to see change in overall health, parents must educate their children and provide them with nutritious meals at home. Check out my story at the New York Times:

Gary Schwitzer

June 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

On the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Paul Raeburn has commented on other coverage of the proposed ban:

Cooper Mook

June 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm

As a healthy New Yorker I understand the need for exercise and healthy eating however THIS IS NOT THE SOLUTION. Removing our personal freedom’s is not what we need…stand up for our right to make our own decisions and join the coalition at to fight Bloomberg’s ban!

Robert K. Greco

June 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I hate nanny Bloomberg. He sees this as government helping people to live longer, I see this as a civil rights issue. It’s MY choice, good or bad. Message to Bloomberg. BUTT OUT OF MY LIFE. 17 months until we are finally rid of him, unless of course he buys a 4th term!!!!