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. Odin

    Gee, Coke is agin this–who would thunk it

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ken

    I fully support the concept of eradicating these "bladder buster" sized drinks but I also believe the Mayor is overstepping his authority. He should mind the business of running the city and not mind the business of running people's lives.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. john

    What a dope the Mayor of New York is. He must be a Mutts fan..

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kirk

    Banning the size of soda will not make a difference in the sugar intake, Mr. Bloomberg. Your citizens may still consume 2 8oz cans of the same beverage instead of just one 16oz bottle or cup or bottle for that matter. Are you just trying to make the headlines? Please, Mr. mayor, think before you act.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. More Limits

    I think the mayor must expand this program to restrict the maximum serving size of all unhealthy foods. We need limits on cookies, brownies, pies, donuts, candy bars, coffee sweeteners, and every other food he deems unhealthy. There must also be a limit on the size of alcholic beverages and the length of cigarettes and cigars (I'm thinking 1" should be more than enough). And while we're at it, a full quarter pound of beef in a hamburger is a heart attack in a wrapper, let's regulate that too.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RonJ

    How about we just ban all food and drink? The government can create a tasteless protein paste with all the necessary balance of nutrition. We'll have that with water only. Then we can all be forced to exercise X hours a day...building roads or something...for the combustion engine cars that will probably be outlawed next.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soylent Green for NYC

      That has been tried - it was called Soylent Green

      June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ban NYC Oversized Deli Sandwiches and bagels

    I think NYC should ban the overstuffed NY deli sandwiches and the ton of cream cheese put on the bagels - that is more fattening and damaging to the heart than the soda....

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Terry

    Paul Mulshine is brainwashed – "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" Total BS that people buy into. It has zero effect on people's spending habits. It just generates revenue for the gov't under the guise of they are trying to help you. Smokers don't care if the tax is 5 dollars a pack – they are going to find a way to buy it. That's why it's called an addiction. People need gas – they are going to buy it no matter what the tax is. This notion that putting a 20 cent tax on sugary drinks will get people to cut down is ridiculous. They will start selling sugar packets right next to the soda cooler. Heck, just meander over to the coffee and get the packets for free. This is nothing more than a revenue scheme for the city of New York because they have a pension bill that is larger than the net revenue from over 100 countries. Once the mayor "figures" out he can't get the soda manufacturers to comply – he will then roll out the tax idea which is what he conjured up in the first place but his aides told him he would look bad so float out the trial balloons first. How pathetically predictable.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      Terry, tobacco taxes have been the single most effective tool in cutting tobacco use. Look around you – half of Americans used to smoke and now only 1 in 5 does. That's a huge change. Money talks, maybe not for you, but for the population as a whole.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      Lynne, you don't know that it's because of the taxes that people smoke less. There are other factors involved, such as education and awareness of how bad smoking is for you these days and how hard it is to quit.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. blake

    If Alex Baldwin supports this move, you know it is moronic. NO NANNY STATE!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ann

    This limits NOTHING. People will simply purchase 2 smaller sizes or buy drinks more often throughout the day. What about the big 2 L bottles of soda, does the ban include them?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AndriconBoy

    So instead of banning the soda, why not place a greater tax or health insurance premiums on the obese?
    Why rob some people of the right because others refuse to exercise moderation?

    Why, oh why, do we live in a country where the public and the tax payers have to pay the price for the stupidity of others?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. comingsoon

    Hubris tend to get to your head.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MagisterLudi

    Next time you want a soda, just go to the grocery store, buy a bottle of Karo syrup and take a few gulps. Mmmmmmm. Good! America sure is stupid about ingesting lots of garbage!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JohnBoy

    Why doesn't Bloomberg ban Cigarettes if he is concerned with health? What about Alchohol?

    June 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Corey

    As much as I'm for free speech and right to bare arms i agree. I've witnessed 4 gastric bypass surgery's in my immediate family alone. If WE(this includes all of us because WE elected these people to speak for us) don't do something it will just continue to grow.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      So why dont YOU show some self control and not require EVERYONE to be restricted because YOU are too weak to control yourself. Its simple darwinism the people too st upid to control themselves dont live long.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • DW

      Baaaaah Baaaah

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