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. GOPlies

    dam government trying to regulate how much soda I drink even though I never finish the over size cup of soda... What next Obama trying to take my gun rights away even though this has not happened. What is this country coming to when we can't sit back and enjoy a nice episode of fox news and learn about things that don't exist.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. s

    free enterprise, unless you want to sell big sodas, then you can forget about it? what about ppl who only get a 40 oz. soda at the theater and share it, like my little family of 3?

    June 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Seth

    It seems like there could be much smarter ways of approaching this. Rather than an outright ban why not set up a 5 cent per ounce sales tax on every soda over a certain size? the money could be used to fund community gardens or neighborhood farmers' markets or even to supplement school lunch programs that use fresh produce rather than processed.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRUCE

      bieber is not going to like this

      June 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. O.T.

    What would the Founders have thought if you told them the government would one day tell you what size non-alcoholic beverages you could buy and sell?

    June 4, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pen Geek

    I don't mind people being fat as hogs, or smoking their lungs out, as long as they pay a surplus for health insurance. I don't want to supplement their insurance rates or enable their lack of discipline.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    Soda Flop!

    June 4, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rachel

    You want to stop childhood obesity? Ban McDonald's instead.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • RG33

      and ban candy bars, cookies, ice cream, pies, cakes, chips, and other assorted varieties of tasty sweets. Just visit your local food store and count the calories!

      June 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jimbo

    Mayor Bloomberg how about trying my idea. Rather than banning huge soda drinks, shut off all the elevators in New York. Make everyone take the stairs, even the committee that decided to ban large sodas. Move all the handicapped people to the first floor. Then move all the over weight people to the upper floors of apartment buildings. If obesity is the problem then make people work the pounds off because they will just drink the same amount it will just be a bunch of small portions.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mario

    SODA is part of American culture..sometime I pity people who grew up drinking soda on daily basis as a kid, then it will be very difficult to kick off that habit of drinking soda.

    If you wanna eliminate obesity..focus more on better, convenient public transportation system where people won't need car anymore..instead, people can use bus and trains, which involves bit of daily walking to the stations and bus stops..pretty much why people in bigger city are generally more in shape, because THEY WALK.

    June 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. T. R.

    It's a stupid idea. What would prevent someone from buying two 16-ounce sodas, instead of a banned 32-ounce soda?What if a you wanted to buy a soda larger than 16 ounces to share with someone else, because it's more economical than purchasing two separate ones? This type of policy is illogical. It makes about as much sense as cutting cigarette sizes in half; smokers would just smoke twice as many of the half-size ones.

    June 4, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    So.... How exactly are they going to enforce this law??????? When if I go to corner store and want to order a 32oz. cup of Unsweetened Ice Tea????????

    Am I no longer allowed to get my big cup of Iced Tea?

    And what if they do still sell 32oz and 44oz cups but have a sign saying I can only put unsweetened drinks in them. Whats going to prevent someone from filling it up with Regular Coke??

    June 4, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    This has got to be one of the worst ideas I've heard in combatting obesity. Banning certain foods/beverages won't help, all it will do is force consumers to either drink more refills or switch to even more calorie filled beverages. As long as nutritious food is not available to all segments of our society people will be overweight. As long as "convenience" foods are plentiful, people will eat them. For many consumers, especially those in large urban areas, fresh fruits and vegetables are not readily available or economical.

    June 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. James

    Starbucks cinnamon dolce latte, 16 oz. 330 calories
    Coca-cola, 16 oz. 194 calories

    You can't legislate healthy decisions. Anyway, it would be better to mandate everyone walk 5 miles a day. Just close half the bus stops and subway stations and save a fortune. But don't plan on getting reelected if you push any of these ideas.

    June 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • RG33

      maybe everyone should be required to park their car a mile from their house?

      June 4, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wrm

    So buy f'in two of them. What a positively stup1d law. This is NYC sophistication, eh?

    June 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. justanidea

    Why not tax food based on the number of calories they contain? Considering extra calories are what provide the negative externality (extra costs) which in this case is obesity. If you took an economics class, you should know what I am talking about. Lets say we decide to tax food based on the number of calories the unit of food is. For instance, lets charge a penny for every 10 calories. This would slightly increase the cost of food, but food that is higher in calories would have a higher cost associated with than foods with lower calories. Thus, people would be more likely to consume food less in calories because it is cheaper. At the same time, people can still treat themselves to a a food/drink that is high in calories if they want it.

    June 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
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