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. marabou22

    I live in NYC. I can tell you that some neighborhoods, the cornerstores have almost nothing available for diet or sugar free drinks. Other neighborhoods...the cornerstores have a great selection. I think that a better idea would be for cornerstores to be required to stock a greater variety of drink alternatives so that people can see..."hey this diet ice tea aint so bad". give more options you know. what are peoples thoughts there? I think Bloombergs idea is silly.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      Your idea is just as silly. If they don't stock it, it's because it's not selling. Making a law requiring them to purchase and stock a certain amount of products that may not sell and thus lose them money is a horrible alternative that may put some out of business.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Muhammad Khan

    Why soda. How about smoking . I think smoking is worst than sugar.

    Think again you may want to change your mind.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike fromCalgary

      Focus now focus! You learn to walk one step at a time! A journey begins with a single step!

      June 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulC

      Many municipalities have banned smoking in many situations and tobacco is heavily taxed to discourage smoking.

      June 5, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. rad4d

    Why 16 oz? Why not 12? Why not chocolate milk, as well? And what about Krispy Kreme donuts, onion rings, extra cheese or mayonnaise? Does the ban get lifted once everyone starts drinking less?

    This is a really good idear – I just think Bloomberg needs about 40,000 more pages of clarification.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      All the other stuff is coming down the line, but remember, you have to boil the frog slowly. A couple of decades ago, people would have rioted if someone outright banned smoking. But it was harmless enough to make a non-smoking section in a restaurant. And then it was harmless enough to just outright ban smoking altogether in certain establishments. And then it was alright to ban smoking in your own car with a child present. And then bam, legislation proposed to ban smoking in your own home. Same with sodas. The machines can be on school grounds, but they can't sell sodas during lunch hour. Then they have to be moved off school grounds altogether. And now this. Boil the frog sloooooowly.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. fuelinggood

    It is unfortunate that the Mayor doesn't have a realistic approach to solve obesity, but more of a "can I get any media time" approach. If he wanted to combat obesity, why not encourage activity, better overall eating. I find it near comical that the Mayor is fine with a multi-thousand calorie fast food meal, as long as you hold the soda.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MikeNBuffalo

    I can understand the smoking ban due to the 2nd hand smoke. Someone for drinking a soda thats "large" on the other hand will not harm the person thats sitting across from him in any shape or form. Everyone knows soda isn't a healthy drink for starters unless you are living under a rock. If someone wishes to drink an overly large soda is a choice open oneself, not for the person sitting next to them to make that call simply on the reason that they feel its unhealthy for them.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    So I suppose America is the freeist country in the world right. That was the concept however all you bleeding hearts are defeating the purpose. Soon the government will press a button and everyone will sleep. Then they will press a button and everyone wakes up. Overprotection is amazing. We are protected against ourselves because the bleeding hearts don't have a life so they nit pik at everyone elses life which causes govs to make new laws which causes us to be even more protective which causes more rules and a totally controlled environment. This is America the free is it?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RIchard

    Yes, I am 6'2"
    But I'm also very active.
    I walk during breaks – on weekends I work outside or go riding (a motorcycle)
    I am always doing something – not just coming and plopping down in front of the TV and wasting away.
    I do NOT allow my kids to sit in front of the Wii or PlayStation or whatever and do nothing – they go outside – period.
    Playing games is for at night when it is too dark for them to be outside.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    So lets keep paying higher medical insurance premiums because people can't control their indulgence behavior and keep getting diabetes and heart problems from being overweight. We live in a society people, what you do affects others.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bamm Bamm Hussein Dah Sheiky

      A big coke aint the problem! And removing dah big coke aint gonna fix it.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      So how about treating the cause and not the symptoms? The symptom is Joe Schmoe drinking and eating way more than his body needs on a routine basis. The cause is a psychological issue that compels Joe Schmoe to do this. Instead of just banning the way he expresses his psyche, maybe we should offer help so he can overcome the compulsion to overeat and overdrink. But then again, if we actually gave a damn about struggling people in this country, we wouldn't jail people addicted to drugs, we would send them to rehab centers for help.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chuck

    Yes, obesity is a problem. Yes, these large serving sizes of high-calorie soft drinks contribute to that.

    But it is not the legitimate function of government to regulate how large the cup should be at a restaurant. This is simply not a proper use of the power and authority of government.

    The mayor suffers from "hammer and nail syndrome." When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The mayor has clearly spent too much time in government because he has lost the other tools. He has come to see every problem as demanding the only tool he now has. And when that tool is as dangerous as the power and authority of the government, it is time to get him out of that position and give him some time to reacquaint himself with other tools.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. anti-NUTBALL

    They need to back off. I run marathons and drink two 44 oz of POP a day. I AM LEAN AND MEAN, and I can regulate my own diet. BACK OFF.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bamm Bamm Hussein Dah Sheiky

      Can I hear an amen? Just buy the two liter bottles. Next this bean bag should allow cheeseburgers – which is worse then a coke.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eman de Riuqer

      That may be so, but it seems they think the vast majority are not like you.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bleepbloop

    The borderline issue here is – the government telling you what to eat and drink. What car you can and can't buy. What health insurance you can and can't buy. What you can and can't say online. What you children can and can't eat at school and if it doesn't satisfy their requirements they have to eat the school food.

    Is anyone fed up yet?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Yes. Socialism is what this country has become.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    That's Mikey. He hates evereything. Stop worrying about his political affiliation. You're the ones with time on your hands.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    In other news, speakeasys make a comeback.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chuck

    Why is the government dictating what I can consume? Last time I checked I have a right to buy any product to consume I want if its out there available. The government making choices for me is called socialism. People need to stop looking to the government for help all the time and start making the decisions on their own. That is just one of the many problems today. remember "for the people by the people". They should not be speaking for us!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • deven politicer watcher FOR THE TRUTH

      Look over 50% of americans is obiested and if we don't do something are next generations will " pay" for what we do.It's not about freedom it's about keeping are selfs healthy come on guys get real and think about what the government doing.It would be horrible if america becomes the fattest country on the earth guys please think of what i mean thank you and have a nice day.


      June 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eman de Riuqer

      You're wrong, Chuck. The government making decisions for you is called totalitarianism, NOT socialism. You sound uneducated when you use "socialism" as a "bad" word to describe something you don't like. You might even call it fascism, I suppose, but socialism would be if the mayor said you can buy a 44 ounce sugary carbonated beverage, but you have to SHARE it with everyone. Get it right.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eman de Riuqer

      ... and to "deven politicer watcher FOR THE TRUTH", please please PLEASE stop.

      Reading your post was painful, please return to grade school, learn how to write and the appropriate use of words (for example, "our", not "are",) and then come back. Or don't.

      To anyone who thinks I'm being a Grammar Nazi... it's one thing to make the occasional minor typographical error, but quite another when the post is almost unintelligible gibberish, making the author seem like a complete idiot. Try to read what "deven politicer watcher FOR THE TRUTH" before you judge.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. N8

    C'mon NYC. You can not always re-elect him. Everyone is vocal on the message boards, yet the same hoo-ha's still get elected.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Thats because our votes no longer matter. Its predetermined

      June 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
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