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. ala-kat

    When did we as a human race forget how to take good care of ourselves? When did this breakdown start? Can it be reversed? Not by bans, but by education and information?

    June 5, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. Stephen

    We've been preaching about people changing their habits for over a decade now. As someone who overcame obesity the hard way this is the sort of change we need and we need it as soon as possible. The reality is our nation is getting fatter and fatter and no one is doing anything to stop it. We live in a system we built around ourselves to fill all our desires as cheaply as possible. Gluttony is one of the deadly sins for a reason. Now one in three people in this country are a healthy weight. What don't you people get? This stuff is poison. This stuff will kill you. It's worse than cigarettes because there's no downside in the short term. No bad breath, nothing. Just good feelings. All this nonsense about the government overreaching, about 'why are we doing this when we could be doing this?' the misguided 'don't ban pop, ban this'. That defeats the purpose. If we spend another decade arguing about where we draw the line it will be too late. A line must be drawn, a stand must be made. Our country is dying from obesity and no one cares. Parents take their children to McDonalds for breakfast and don't understand why it's wrong. Something has got to give, before our belts do.

    June 5, 2012 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
    • ala-kat

      I'm not fat. I don't eat out. I don't drink soda by itself. My fridge and pantry are full of good choices. Just wish someone would come along and wash my dishes.

      June 5, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. ala-kat

    One six ounce bottle of coca-cola was split three ways, maybe once a week if we had been good, when I was a child.

    June 5, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Clint

    "Soda has been a hot topic "

    Ewwwww, warm soda......

    June 5, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dakota2000

    So, the obvious question is: Why not ban full sized cigarettes? And make only 1/2 sized cigarettes legal? Oh, people would just smoke two...

    I don't see the logic here. The only beneficiary will be FF joints that will now sell two drink and twice the price and make twice the profit.

    June 5, 2012 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Alan

    Why not ban Alcohol and Tobacco which are far more deadly? Bloomberg should have better things to do.

    June 5, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Selfish IsADisease

    Isn't Bloomberg the crackpot who stopped all transit; shut down businesses and brought New York to a grinding halt because of the hurricane rain storm that turned out to be a shower?????
    And here he goes – over-reacting again! Is there an election due?

    June 5, 2012 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Emperor Vadik, CA

    To use the age old gay marriage, gun, etc etc etc argument...


    June 5, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. medlockesbabe

    From what I LEARNED IN SCHOOL ...Our government....regardless of state or federal ... and this should include a city mayor..does not have the right to tell us what we should be eating and drinking...yes take it out of the schools...We have rights givin to us under government and drink is not one of them. This mayor should worry more about the jobless rate...high medical cost...crime in his city....No! ...he got to worry over soft drinks!

    June 5, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. heroicslugtest

    They really need to chang this headline. I read it as controversy "fizzling" over soda ban, so I clicked thinking, "No way, people are not going to let this happen," but alas, it's "fizzing".

    Nitpicky? Sure. Am I alone in misreading the headline? Nope.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. unowhoitsme

    Why not just ban American food. Read the labels. It's ALL bad for you. We now eat "chemical foods"...the food of the future has arrived...and we ALL die horrible deaths because of it.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. Amy

    You think this is bad, starting 2013, Concord, Mass. is banning bottled water. Now in Mass, we have some crackpot Senator who wants to ban it through out the state and water IS healthy for you.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  13. charlie from the North

    Does anyone find it ironic that the soda ban comes the same week as the legalizing pot? I hope they don't ban fritos and twinkies or else there will be a lot of people with the munchies who will be stuck with carrot sticks.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Soda is the Devil

      Although I believe there a few more dangerous things in this world other than soda – like cannibalism or Lindsay Lohan exsiting – it should be understood that there is not a proposal to legalize pot in NYC. Gov. Cuomo wants to downgrade the penalty for possessing marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation (being fined rather than going to jail).

      June 5, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bloomberg Idiota

    Dude, we are all adults, if we want to drink soda, we will drink, we don't need an idiot like Bloomberg or idiot politicians to tell us what to do. This is not a fascist country

    June 5, 2012 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Maxiehindy

      It is quickly becoming one.

      June 5, 2012 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    Obviously this will not get very far but it serves a great purpose ... it has the country talking about portion sizes and obesity. Go and research what a "portion size" looked like in the 1970s or 1980s. You can preach all you want about individual liberties, but you won't see soda companies/fast food places/restauranteurs/snack food makers marketing healthy portion sizes. Yes this is America and you have the right to consume as much unhealthy crap as you want, but health care providers then have the right to jack up your health care costs because you CHOSE to live an unhealthy lifestyle and the slow painful death is something you deserve.

    June 5, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
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