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. Paulie

    In a way by making us buy 4 (12 ounce) cans if we want to share a soda -rather than allowing the sale of a 44 oz Big Gulp for $1.49 he is also costing the consumer money with his regulation.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • PK

      Not too mention creating more waste... Way to be anti-green Mr. Bloomberg!

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

    Have all the guns you want – shoot anyone who even looks at you funny. But Soda? You're not responsible enough to make your own purchase choices. Nanny State GOP is going to step in and tell you what to do.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • please

      Bloomberg is the guy who makes sure the judge throws the book at a person for shooting themselves.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mailliam

    Is Bloomberg becoming the Taliban of soda water?

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

    This is idiotic what happened to freedom? If I want to drink that stuff I have every right to. The government has no business telling me how I should live my life on a day to day basis

    June 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      If you have a BMI over 25, jimbop, I as a taxpayer will ultimately end up footing your medical bill. It IS my business, indeed.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • SuperDave

      Hey habitually addicted clown, the government is not telling you not to drink 48z of garbage, just you will have to buy it 4 times insetad of once.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • B-Squared

      If the government runs healthcare, and it's funded by taxes, then everyone has the right tell you how to live.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Charlie

    I think the declining wealth of America due to globalization is a bigger issue than banning big gulp sodas.

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

      It sure is Charlie. Its way past time for our government to get its house in order and stop focusing on trivialities.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. raforrester

    What's the fuss? He's not banning anything. He's saying you can have as much sugary soft drinks as you want, but just get them in smaller portions. That way you can stop drinking when you stop being thirsty, instead of when you finish that huge soft drink that you probably didn't really want anyway but you feel like you have to finish just because you bought it.

    Get a grip, people. It's not the end of the world. And I wouldn't be surprised if retailers actually come out ahead, because two 16 oz drinks cost a lot more than one 32 oz drink.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PK

    As long as you can still go to the store and get a 32 oz can of malt liquor I guess smaller sodas is ok..

    June 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Not All Docs Play Golf

    As a physician, but also as a tax payer who understands that we ALL pay $$$ for the obesity epidemic, I applaude the courage of mayor Bloomberg. To all of the foam-at-the-mouthers saying "what's next?" and "nanny state," I say phooey. We NEED this kind of leadership. Bravo, Mayor, Bravo!!

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

      its not the governments job.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mat

    Obesity related illness such as diabetes, heart conditions, etc.. is strongly contributing to healthcare premiums increasing. In other words, it's costing everybody money, not just those who are actually overweight.
    So for all those crying over nanny this nanny that, the fact is if people weren't as fat we'd each be paying less out of our paychecks. Why would I have to pay because some people can't control themselves?
    This said, though I understand where Bloomberg is coming from, I think it's the wrong approach. Rather, he should heavily tax these and other junk foods – it worked for cigarettes. Also, food stamps should not be allowed to be used for anything of this sort.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Charlie

    The government only goes this far because the people allow it to.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bhiner99

    I don't object to the idea of healthy eating, and limiting sugar intake. I do object to a government official who thinks it is his responsibility to set limits on what food items I may choose to eat. Butt out! There is too much government involvment in our lives as it is. You want to do something? Promote common sense and personal responsibility. Charge higher medical insurance premiums for people who live unhealthy lifestyles. That makes it a personal cost for a personal choice... i.e. eating badly. Don't throw the cookies away because the youngest child in the house keeps getting into them. Discipline the child.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saige


      You object to government involvement in this issue, but you don't seem to realize that it was the private food industry that got us into this predicament in the first place. The government was never behind the huge increases of food and beverage portions that have been plaguing our society in recent years/decades. The food capitalists are filling their pockets with $$$$$$$$$$$$ while the people are filling their stomachs with extra food and becoming obese. Those who say that portion size should be a matter of choice–don't kid yourselves! We are all being victimized by private industry, and the government is only trying to help.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. shut_up


    June 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DL

    As long as they don't ban my 40oz malt liquor ..allz right

    June 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MagisterLudi

    Listen you bunch of fat American slobs! You CAN eat pretty much what you want, even as you go through middle age and possibly into your retirement years if you're long as you EXERCISE! I run, bike, walk, lift weights and I'm in my 40's. Still got a 6-pack.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Decline

      No one cares about your 6 pack but you buddy.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cookie

      Sure. I have a six-pack too; its in the fridge.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bpblizzard

    Another freedom out the door. Once you get used to the small rights going out the door, the big ones follow next.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cookie

      bpblizzard is right. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. They are chipping away at our freedom one tiny little bit at a time. One day we will wake up but it will be too late. Open your eyes.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronald Hussein Reagan

      WHy did Washington crossss the Delaware? Why did the GIs storm the beaches at NOrmandy? WHy did Lincoln want to preserve the Union? THat's right. Super sized sodas.

      June 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
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