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."

Fit Nation: I used to drink 10 cans of soda a day

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Filed under: Food • Health • New York • Nutrition • Politics
soundoff (664 Responses)
  1. See

    I wonder sometimes how many people understand how this whole calorie intake thing works. Five hundred calories of sugared soda and five hundred calories of blueberries and five hundred calories of lean chicken breast are all equally fattening. They all have different benefits, nutritionally and emotionally, but you can get severely obese on a low fat vegetarian diet and stay slim on a diet of pizza and Mountain Dew. Banning large salads would have the same result as banning Big Gulps. The only food intake-related issue that government could regulate to affect obesity rates is total daily caloric intake, and good luck with that.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mel

    How about a ban on big alcohol drinks? There is just as much, if not more sugar in alcohol. But they would never do that...too many politicians are drunks. My soda will never harm or kill anyone besides myself, whereas alcohol could potential harm or kill others. For the people posting "fattie" comments, I have lost 72 pounds while still drinking my regular (not diet) soda, I am now down to 130 and drink a 2 liter everyday. It's called exercising.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. JP

    If you are banning soda please ban cigarettes. I am sick of getting second hand smoke when I walk around outside. That directly effects me yet is legal and has been proven to be bad for your health. Yet we want to ban something that effects no one but the individual themselves.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |

    Ever notice that there are not any fat zombies?
    Could it be that they avoid fast food?

    June 5, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. TAK

    So let me get this straight, we're now legalizing pot but banning Coke(tm)?

    June 5, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. NO-BAMA

    we need to send a firm hard message to big nanny state government. tell them to shove off. enough of this infringment of is the worst of the worst...he seems to stick his nose everywhere it donest need to be instead of managing his city. He is just like this Pansey President Oblama...Obama is a joke and you libs know america destroyer...and an appeaser who will get us into a major conflict somewhere soon...

    June 5, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve, New York City

      You are funny.
      If Bloomberg and Obama are so horrible, tell me one good thing about Bush '43 (and you can't say "he loves his mom"). Who is your favorite? Joe the Plumber?
      You arch-conservatives kill me – you complain about government infringement, yet you're staunchly pro-life. You're pro-life, yet you also support the death penalty.

      Eight years of the Neo-con's "crazy weed" almost ruined this country. Obama has been far from flawless, but he also inherited a hell of a mess (and now he's got freakos angry that POTUS is not a white man)!

      June 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      As opposed to Bush starting a war?

      June 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed G.

      Dear No-Bama,

      Too bad you haven't heard that this Prez has wiped out the senior leadership of Al Qaeda (except for one). Too bad your hero actually started two wars in two countries to catch a guy who didn't live in any of them. Too bad your hero didn't care enough to get the bad guys.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adrian

      Wait...he wants to ban beverages more than 16 ounces. But, can't people just refill the drinks themselves? Can someone explain this to me...I don't understand.

      June 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Judy

    I see all comments here just calling names to overweight people. Why is it people do not post intelligent, constructive comments? All I see posting are a bunch of people who are illiterate, poor spellers, and have poor grammar. A bunch of mean spirited people. Take a look in the mirror. Most people have an addiction to something......I think it is a good idea to get rid of supersize, then people will buy two large and restaurants will make more money which will stimulate the economy.

    June 5, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      we don't need to make it law!

      June 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Seyedibar

    Isn't that why we helped to create this magnificient American society as a near-Utopia? so we could rest on our laurels and have the freedom to find fun in food among other liberties? Obesity isn't any more an epidemic than television or sports. It's just another way people fill the void of having more free time than people did a hundred years ago.

    June 5, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. John

    It's time to put Bloomberg on a power diet and send him back to the private sector.

    June 5, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sheep

    I often stay up later than I should and consequently, am sluggish and less productive the next morning. I hope the government will soon come out with a mandatory bedtime and force television networks to run extra boring programming after 10 PM. Well, it's off to the work camp!

    June 5, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ronnie

    Who really needs that much soda? Its unnecessary to actually buy a big gulp. The only reason ppl buy them is greed. To buy a small or medium fountain drink will do the same as a big gulp. Bigger is not better. Obesity is real and we are teaching our children its okay to be fat. When I was a child being fat was taboo. Parents keep saying "oh they'll lose it when they get older"; no they won't. The stage is set and its a sad story from what I see. I hope it the mayors' ban goes through!

    June 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. EricB

    As bad as the movie "Demolition Man" was, the writers portrayed a future that may one day be reality if we allow this type of legislation to pass. Those in favor of this please make a list of every food you eat and every activity in which you participate. I will then go through the list and propose taxing or banning any activity which could possibly result in extra health care cost.

    For example:

    Skateboarding is more dangerous then other healthy physical exercises, so it should be taxed or banned because it results in heath care costs that can be avoided.

    Bike Racing is more dangerous then a leisurely ride; it should be taxed or banned because it could result in heath care costs that can be avoided. A stationary bike can be excluded as an exception.

    Running is more dangerous then walking, thus should be banned or taxed.

    Grilled Beef has more fat then skinless grilled chicken ban or tax.

    Lets pass a law that requires all ground beef hamburgers to be replaced with ground turkey, or we should tax the burger.

    Grilling on charcoal has been linked to cancer, tax charcoal.

    If your hobby is Wood Working enjoy there is a chance you will eventually cut yourself with a tool, lets tax the tools and the woodworking supplies.

    I can keep right on going. The founders of our country would be sickened and theses politicians and those that agree with them are spitting on the graves of the soldiers that died to make and keep this country free. Part of FREEDOM is FREEDOM to choose and control through taxation is still control and its wrong, period end of story.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed G.

      Three things, 1) Bloomberg isn't taxing anything. 2) Everything you described has already been taxed (even running requires shoes that are taxed) 3) I served 5 years in the Navy and I would prefer you took better care of yourself, if not for your own peace of mind then for those who love you.

      June 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mmikey

    at least it takes the focus off california for a while ( new laughing stock fodder)

    June 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JCR

    Yup, "Blunderburger", our "mayoer" will key in on the important issues of the day. No double burgers, no cheese, no mayo, down size the bun width, shorter fries, no milk shakes, all of which will cause underground sales of these items, Just outside the doors of the Golden Arches will be the trench coat guy with packets of mayo, single slices of cheese selling at a higher price than crack......Hey man, you want a slice of cheese, packet of mayo with that blunderburger......Coke PR guys will just come up with a 15oz cup or set the fill line a little lower and charge 45 cents more to stimulate the economy.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ed G.

    Good on Bloomberg. He banned artificial trans-fats and put calorie counts next to the prices. Many cities followed this lead and we are better for it because we're more informed. He hasn't suggested that people can only buy one soda so go ahead and buy another one. Nobody will stop you and the soda corporations will be glad to sell you another.

    And to those folks who think that encouraging exercise should be the first step, then you haven't paid attention because it's already been tried. And heaven forbid that government actually mandate exercise in schools, these same people would say that reviving the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness of JFK would be creating a nanny state.

    June 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
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