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. mel

    This is so funny. Am I the only that see's the genius in this? If the portion size is all they're trying to control, unless I missed something about this in the article, what about buying the 16oz drinks in mass quantaties? There are those people, me being one of them, if I want my 32oz I will get my 32 oz! Buy 2 of them bad boys, you are now doubling there profits! Instead of up sizing for just a few cents more, you now have to buy 2 or 3 at full price a piece! This is the best racket there is! Where do I sign up to do their job?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • marabou22

      This has been brought up yes. Bloomberg is thinking that if somone buys 2 sodas, they are less likely to actually drink the second one. Sure you can do it, but he figures people who have a natural inclinination to not bother with the second drink.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cookie addict

    Sugar is the big "White devil"

    June 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BruceL

    Every time I start to think Mayor Bloomberg is doing a decent job, he over-reaches on something like this - last time, it was his choice of a personal friend with no qualifications as schools chancellor, whom he had to fire after less than 90 days - and belittles his critics (thus insulting and antagonizing mostly reasonable people) with that condescending tone of his, and proves he's not suited to govern or lead. Now it will probably take the courts to tell him he doesn't have the authority to do this.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jason

    Hey bloomberg, you can't just go banning freedom because your a tyrant. You are representing the wrong country for that. Please repent, stand down, and legalize freedom!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. E.K Green

    Okay, so the Republican Party is the party of less government, less intrusion into our personal lives. Yeah right! except for when it involves oh let's say, insurance company profits, (they already don't want to pay claims but they will sure take your premium dollars). O,r how about what you can and cannot do in the privacy of your own bedroom, who you choose to reside with, love, marry or not. What you eat, or drink, who you choose to worship (or not) if you don't call yourself a christian your pretty much worthless in the eyes of the repub party, if your out of work because the party of NO!!! won't assist those who have lost their jobs due to downsizing by extending the benefits we have all paid for, or by investing in our infrastructure, which would create jobs for those who are receiving unemployment benefits as well as all the the other small businesses that would see an increase in demand and profits (workers spend their money in communities where they work, they buy meals, fuel, etc) pay taxes to those small communities, thereby increasing the tax revenue collected by the cities, states and the federal government, but will extend an open checkbook (my money also by the way) to Wall Street, Auto companies, Big Oil companies etc. with their tax breaks,and out right infusion of dollars, won't regulate banks in a meaningful way, but worry about whether or not I drink a large soda, give me a break, nothing better to do today Mayor Bloomburg, or other mayors and legislatures that propose such ridiculousness, how about really working on issues that need results, that affect society as a whole and stop worrying about whether or not I drank 16oz of soda or 32 oz of soda, I think I can decide that for myself, we are not all idiots, some of us can and do make informed healthy choices, we don't need you to do it for us, all this proposal would do is make people order two sodas instead of one, oh yeah I guess that's not a bad idea for the stockholders of MickyD's or BuggerKing, or WallyWorld, people will just buy more, increase their profits, what a method you guys have chosen to backend tax revenue, let's not raise taxes, just get people to buy double and we'll generate the increased taxes that way. Please!!! Get over it. If you're wondering by the way, I am neither Democrat nor Republican, nor a member of the Tea Party, strictly Independent, and always vote that way.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe's brain

      Except that Bloomberg is not a Republican and it was Democrats who bailed out the auto and financial sectors. Other than you complete lack of understanding, it was a good try.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lars

    I'm sorry. This is just wrong. I don't drink alot of soda, but why is it wrong to drink 44oz once in a while. I think I had one last time I was in NYC to keep me going as I walked everywhere. How about teaching some personal responsibility and focus on the real issues.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrBill

      Last time I checked, it was 80% ice anyway!

      June 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paul Marber

    There is no meaningful difference between our government choosing to keep certain unhealthy products and drugs out of the bodies of its citizenry and limiting the amount of certain other unhealthy products we consume. The reality is that we should be complaining about the double standard our representatives use to protect corporate earnings and, ultimately, campaign donations. We ban countless unhealthy items yet continue to permit tobacco sales, permit exposure to carcinogens and ignore the risks associated with abuse of marginally nutritious products which, when consumed in excess, create uncountable health problems. Realistically, Mayor Mike has not gone far enough to protect us from ourselves, something the government routinely does. In this case, protectionism is warranted to prevented expenditure of a myriad of dollars to fight the complications of obesity. As with the tobacco industry, make warnings about obesity a requirement of nutrition less soft drinks and similarly worthless "foods." Make the companies that purvey sugar and salt contribute to making the country healthy. This is particularly needed in the case of children swept up by sweets, salty and fatty foods, without the willpower, control and knowledge necessary to understand they are poisoning themselves. Thanks, Mayor Mike, for thinking of us and our children.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ShawnDH

    Why do right-wingers think SODA is some basic freedom (good God, people can just BUY ANOTHER ONE), but your own reproduction and your own marriage should be controlled and dictated by the government? Is that your "small unintrusive government?" Hypocrites.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joe's brain

    Bloomberg has done more to take freedoms than the terrorists. Will America ever get enough of this nanny-state fascism? I doubt it.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jonathan

    "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.
    I drink maybe one soda per week. At a barbecue, I have been known to down 2-3 cans of Dr. Pepper. I would not say I'm addicted to sugary drinks, but the ban that Bloomberg is suggesting is outrageous.
    Maybe we should have a "drink soda" day in celebration of this.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chip

    If you want to make eating fast food healthier, the size of the drink is the least of your worries.

    And reducing the size of the drink to 16-oz? That's about 7-oz. of liquid and 9-oz of ice.

    From what I can tell, Bloomberg probably has never been inside a fast food restaurant.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Andy

    I believe even most republicans would agree that obesity is better dealt with through education than enforcement. That is, until it becomes time to pay for the teachers.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark Glicker

      This ban would be laughable if not true. What will the limit be on Pizza slices and Pastrami?

      June 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. michelle

    What a joke this mayor is!! He wants to try to 'regulate' something like soda, but he can't solve the problem of creating jobs for its citizens. Furthermore, he 'claims' that he wants citizens to have good jobs, but if ex-offenders or homeless people try to better their lives, he's got regulations banning businesses from hiring ex-offenders. Hyprocritical at best, a blatant liar at worst. Hopefully, New York is seeing behind this hyprocritical rhetoric?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seadog

      That's what you pay for being a convicted or ex-offender. Deal with it! Jobs go to the law abiding citizens and then to the ex-offenders.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. G Gill

    I propose we ban politicians under 5' 6" tall.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Darkguardian1314

    When someone wants to make big changes, they start by introducing the changes in small increment to minimize resistance and increase the tolerance the public would put up with. It started with schools, now a city wide ban of a certain size. Next would be a total ban. This is in no way going to end here if the law passes.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
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