Controversy fizzing over Bloomberg's soda ban
Large portions of sugary drinks lead to obesity, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says.
June 4th, 2012
01:36 PM ET

Controversy fizzing over Bloomberg's soda ban

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has created a soda controversy that may take more than a 44-ounce Big Gulp to quench.

Citing what he says is the contribution sugary beverages make to obesity in the U.S., Bloomberg proposed a ban the sale of any sugary beverage over 16 ounces in any of the city's restaurants, delis, movie theaters or even street carts.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible.’ New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do,” Bloomberg told The New York Times in making his proposal last week.

Soda has been a hot topic across the Web since.

Bloomberg has his supporters, including a former president.

"It's basically too much sugar going into the body. We can't process it all. So, if you get rid of these giant, full of sugar drinks and make people have smaller portions, it will help," former President Clinton told CNN's Piers Morgan.

"Good for Bloomberg," writes CNN contributor David Frum. "Obesity is America's most important public health problem, and the mayor has led the way against it. This latest idea may or may not yield results. But it is already raising awareness. Even if it fails to become law, it ought to prod the beverage industry into acting as more responsible corporate citizens."

But Coca-Cola is among the corporate citizens that don't quite see it the way Bloomberg's supporters do.

The company's vice president of science and regulatory affairs, Rhona Applebaum, says the government should help get kids more active before it tries to cut their soda quaffing.

If we're going to hold the sodas, we should hold the fries, writes Mark A. Pereira, an associate professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota.

"What's the rationale behind targeting a single dietary factor in the sea of unhealthy foods and drinks that barrage us every day?" Pereira asks on

Celebrities are taking sides, too.

Alec Baldwin writes in the Huffington Post that he supports the mayor, likening America's addiction to sweets to an addiction to drugs.

"Many of those who cry loudest about measures like the one Bloomberg has proposed are probably sick, too: hooked on high fat, high sodium and high sugar diets who don't want their 'drug' taken away," Baldwin writes.

Put "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart among those opposed to the mayor.

Sucking down a large, movie theater-sized soda on his show, Stewart sarcastically said he loves Bloomberg's plan.

"It combines the draconian overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect," Stewart said.

Bloomberg, Stewart said, had put him in the uncomfortable position of having to agree with conservative commentators like Tucker Carlson.

Market experts say Bloomberg's plan could backfire, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

“Whenever people feel like they’re being restricted they begin to resist. And that creates a real headwind for a policy like this,” David Just, a professor and food marketing specialist at Cornell University told the Times.

“I’ll show them; I’ll drink three sodas” may be their reaction, Just told the Times.

Julie Gunlock, director of Women for Food Freedom and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, sees merit in that argument.

"New Yorkers are known for their independence and their brash resistance to such heavyhanded efforts," Gunlock writes in the New York Daily News.

Just outside the city, Paul Mulshine, writing in The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, says a ban isn't the answer, but a tax is.

"You can’t outsmart the market. If you want less of something, whether it’s soda or gasoline, tax it. If you want more of something, cut the tax on it," Mulshine writes.

Of course, he says, ban or tax, it really makes no difference to him.

"I drink beer. And that’s already taxed," Mulshine writes. "Good thing, too, or Mayor Mike might put a limit on mug sizes."

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Filed under: Food • Health • New York • Nutrition • Politics
soundoff (664 Responses)
  1. Harvey

    The nanny state is really starting to over-reach. Next you will have to have a government issued "I'm Skinny" card to get a soda at all.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod C. Venger

      I'm 56, 5'6" and 105 pounds. I drink a case of soda a week, am not diabetic, obviously not obese...I am just lean and don't have much body fat. Proof enough that Bloomberg is wrong. a 44 ounce soda is around 450 calories, less than a burger and far more filling. Soda is cheap calories that goes through us far quicker than food does and is used up first. But in a 2500 calorie/day diet, a 44 ouncer is only 20% of our caloric intake. Downsizing the soda won't make a difference if someone insists on eating 5,000 calories a day. Believe it or not, you don't have to eat until you feel like you're about to bust. You don't even have to feel full. Eat 600 calories 3x daily plus the doesn't even have to be "healthy" only need to limit the number. Forcing that on someone is insane, it's just a common sense way to live longer.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod C. Venger

      When people get tired of the Nanny, maybe they'll fire it's fat a55.

      Interesting that Congress has a mere 17% approval rating. If Congress were some dictator overseas, with those numbers, Obama would say that the writing is on the wall and regime change is in order. Fascinating, huh?

      June 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rod C. Venger

    Can we put a "stupid tax" on liberal thought? Liberal thought is something that the US definitely needs less of and since we can't put limits on stupid speech, we can at least make it expensive.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. GeorgeBos95

    Maybe the Mayor should focus on his own weight issues, and let the rest of us make our own decisions when it comes to food.

    So, too should Slick Willie. Does he think we've forgotten how he would eat at McDonald's when he went out for a jog?

    That was his choice – I don't recall him asking me – or anyone else – if we found that behavior silly and counterproductive.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Shawn

    Mayor should concentrate to his own job responsibility to improve traffic, sanitation, security & jobs for New Yorkers which is getting worse day by day. Soda matter is very cheap short to cover up his incompetency.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |

    This what I don't get. When you purchase a super sized or any size soft drink at any fast food place they always load it down with ice. So how can you tell when they've added no more then 16oz of soda? Maybe we need to cut out the Big Mac, or Wendys double cheeseburger, or the big bucket of chicken wings..............Where/when does it end???????

    June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JT


    June 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    This only makes sense (?) if you combine the ban on huge drinks with a ban on double/triple cheeseburgers, big macs, supersize fries, and all similar items.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Liz

    Ths is a major overreach of government. If a person wants to drink themselves to death on soda tahst their business. As for children its our government's constant fault for cutting and cuttting and cutting education to where programs on health are ridiculous they show kids a few pictures and talk about eating some vegetables but there are still tons of kids that don't even know what most vegetables are! Hell their own parents don't seem to understand health. Education needs to be at all levels including adults even if it means public service nights on tv to introduce people into the world of better choices and limiting sugar intake (come on we all enjoy a nice soda every so often and we should be able too as long as it doesn't overshadow the good). The worst part of all if it are all the people who claim its easier and cheaper to buy microwave and processed foods. Its takes a bit more planning and a bit more work but the results are there. You feel better, you save money in the long run, and when you taste that burger from Mcdonalds after eating fresh for even just 2 weeks you wonder what the hell you were thinking. Good clean food = better tastes buds. If you try and blame it on your child you should hit yourself seriously in the face for letting your child make the decisions (unless oddly they're making the better one).

    Its about education not ridiculously regulation. You can take away my big gulp but i can still make my own damn big gulp in the end.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ShaneB

    Its a worthless gesture. Be honest, most people will just order 2 sodas per person if it comes to that. Its not really going to keep people from getting what they want. All its going to do is cause vendors a bunch of harrassment.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShaneB

      Plus, imagine all the extra trash it will generate. Gigantic lose across the board.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    Surely the Mayor of New York has more to worry about than the size of soft drinks. I don't often, if ever, drink one of the big drinks, but I think it is my business to do so if I so elect and not his. New Yorkers were a little dumb for again reelecting him Mayor.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RobT

    Rather that limit the size of the soda, why not require that the packaging show visually how much sugar is in the drink. Have the bottom of the cup (no matter what size) have a grapic of the sugar amount as if they poured the sugar in first then the liquid. Just like making kool-aid. When You see 2 inches of sugar on the bottom of your cup you may think twice. I don't really "See" the amount of sugar in a soda while drinking you?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rad666

    Ban anything that makes people fat. Make New Yorkers more attractive.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Arnold

    I don't think it should be banned, but I do find the strident, defiant, freedom loving fatties screaming about liberty to be highly entertaining, like the smokers who are coughing up their lungs complaining about freedom, as they pay money to get a disease that will force them to pay even more money so they do not die in pain. Let them die. Make sure they do not get any healthcare either, since they are so proud of their freedom and their avarice. Rome too was far too proud of it's excess before it fell. Oh well. There will be more room for the rest of us when they die.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      No health care? You must be a Republican. Lol

      June 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Agreed. Let them get fat and die of heart disease. But that's not what will happen. They'll get fat, get heart disease, and then get a heart transplant on the taxpayers dime.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • bxgrrl

      I have to wonder how much of this protest is fueled by the Center for Consumer Freedom which is a front for big business in the guise of consumer "choice". Not so long ago we didn't have all this mega sized foodstuffs and obesity was rare. They sell junk to us telling us it's what we "want" and we fall for it. Go ahead, choose to be sick. Just don't expect the rest of us to pay higher insurance premiums as a result.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • X Man

      Maybe we should just ban everything and send us all to re education camps...

      June 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      I don't think that there is another Country that has such huge portions of food and beverages. It really is not necessary to consume that much. And one can always see who are the people that take advantage of the "Super-sizes". 90% are very heavy or obese. I understand the Mayor's reason behind this, but I don't think it will fly. Why is it so difficult to take responsibility for ones actions? No one forces anyone to eat and drink those huge amounts. It is not fair that so much of the Healthcare cost goes towards this problem. The Hospitals have problems with not having stronger beds, because they are so many morbidly obese people.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jherara

      I think it's a good idea (in theory), but it will be like every other attempt to ban something - people will go up in arms about their liberties being trampled. President Clinton's right: "These things are going to bankrupt us." Medicare/Medicaid can't handle the burden. Paul Munshine is also right. Tax the he** out of it. Make it as expensive as cigarettes. Coca-Cola is only complaining because they're going to take a hit to their profit margins. Yes, their rep stated that more physical activity is needed, but beyond the initial buzz their product actually reduces the desire of people to be active. So, saying that we need more activity when their product changes blood sugar levels and induces fatigue is ridiculous.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. acspore

    Watch, as soon as President Obama or Michelle Obama endorse this idea or even hint at it, the rightwing, Fixednews, Rush Limbaugh, et al, will go berserk and the floodgates will open screaming insanity and nonsense, yeehaa!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DK

    Careful NYC...all of your beloved pizza places will be next on his target list. He may decide to regulate the size of a NY slice down from the size of your head to just a sliver...and then regulate how many of those wonderfully cheesy, greasy pieces you can consume in a day!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
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