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. Paul

    1. I don't want you digging in my pants for my wallet, to give my money to someone else.
    2. I don't want you telling me I'm too stupid to pack a lunch for my own child, or that I can't buy a soda over 16 oz.
    3. I don't want you willfully, systematically, dismantling American society and rebuilding it to fit your father's dreams, or anyone else's dreams.
    I am a conservative. If you agree with the above three points, join me at the polls. If you disagree, put your hands down your own pants.

    June 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John

    I understand the reasoning, but following the same reasoning, should they not ban everything that is unhealthy or dangerous? For example, Cigarettes, Alcohol, Beer, Skate Boards, Roller Blades, Bikes, sharp objects... I suspect that Cigarettes and Alcohol kill many more people that large soda does. So, where do you draw the line??? If you ban Large Soda because it's BAD for the public, should you not ban Alcohol? Beer makes people fat too. How about Fast food in general? Junk food such as chips? It's a slippery slope when the government bans items for the good of the public.. If they ban one problem, they need to ban them ALL....

    June 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sad but true

    F*** America for not using the metric units! I bet few people know how much 1 oz is LOL... Silly imperial measurment!

    June 4, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tortfeasor

      Everyone knows how much an ounce is! The correct answer? "Not very much"

      June 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • OregonTom

      Everyone knows a fluid ounce is 30 ml duh! Or one shot

      June 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. NYC

    Mike Bloomberg is top 10 richest person in America, and still work as mayor of NYC. OoO

    June 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. honest john

    Looks like the mayor knows this has no real chance of passing and is just trying to dredge up some national attention for himself.

    June 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Maria

    I think the mayor should ban taxis, subways, buses, and cars from NYC to help reduce obesity. People are getting fat from just sitting down to get transported from place to place. We need to make people walk everywhere instead of using these mechanical transport systems. I am willing to allow bicycles, but nothing else. Walk or bike if you want to travel in NYC. Go mayor Bloomberg. Ban these transport systems to help reduce obesity.

    June 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John Land

    The government recently tried to get a regulation that movie theaters would have to post the caloric value of buttered popcorn – because it carries an incredible burden of calories. But the trade objected, so they didn't.

    Ultimately people retain the choice to buy harmful things. Prohibition doesn't work – neither does lack of any restriction.

    1) Some things are presently banned and the result is crime. Namely, drugs including pot. 2) Other things are presently underregulated, and the result is public health problems like obesity. Namely, sugary foods.

    Fix both. : decriminalize the first, but regulate them; and regulate the second – by requiring smaller packaging (smaller bottles of soda), not selling them in school vending machines, etc.

    June 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    Bloomberg has not gone far enough. It is not enough for government to be our mommy and daddy. We all need government to be our deity. .

    June 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lewtwo

    Not that I would ever order a 16 oz soda but if we are going to limit what people and eat and drink should we start with those huge portions of french fries ? Next lets ban all cheese cakes and donuts ... in fact any pastry ? Bloomberg should start next door in New Jersey ... they obvious have a very BIG obesity problem.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ♚Mmmmm♛

    they should get occupier to fill balloons with soda and catapult them at the city hall offices, mayor, and city councilmen...looney tune mayor of all the transgressions one should ban he picks...a beverage...nothing like good old fashion civil disobedience when liberties are eroding...betcha he has the nerve to have vendors and machines carbonated beverages lining city hall....letmie see...20oz bottles....hypocrite!

    June 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gale

    Wait, Alec Baldwin is for this. What made him so fat over the past couple years?

    June 4, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Leo

    Ban computers, cars, phones, and the mail service. All of these things have made people fat. Better yet, let's just ban forks because they are obviously a gateway device for unnecessary calories to enter the body. I swear, this Mayor is a complete and total genius........NOT!

    June 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. vp

    This is sooooo absurd, that there must be more to it.

    Somebody at Pepsi must've p'd off Mr. Bloomberg and this is retaliation.

    It makes no sense.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kevin

    Rediculous. It doesn't matter hoe big your pop is when you're inhaling a fat and salt laced burger. If you want to make a difference, ban fast food

    June 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ♚Mmmmm♛

    boycott all fastfood vendors and bring bag lunches from home with your supersized mugs from the local grocery store...let see how long it will take city hall to miss the sale tax and profits from out to eat workforce...

    June 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
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