Why New York's soda ban is a good idea

Posted: June 01, 2012

Don’t believe everything you read. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial proposal to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in certain venues is a good one.

I can understand how people can argue that the ban stomps on personal freedoms. I get the concern about creating a nanny state. But maybe the reason we’ve created a nanny state is that, well, we actually need a nanny.

If you look around, it’s become obvious that we, as a nation, can’t police ourselves. We are fat. We are getting fatter. And one of the biggest culprits is sugary drinks.

These drinks provide absolutely no nutritional benefits, yet we mindlessly swill down bucket-loads of them.

Have you seen the sizes of drinks they serve at movie theaters these days? Some super-size cups hold enough to quench an entire family’s thirst. Indeed, I’d be a lot more sympathetic to the anti-ban argument if just one person could explain to me why anybody in any situation — save the outbreak of a small fire — needs a 32-ounce soda.

We’re killing ourselves — and one way we do is by drinking what is, essentially, liquid candy. No wonder two-thirds of American adults are seriously overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of practically every serious ailment out there: diabetes, cancer and heart disease among others. And the danger sugary drinks pose is not theoretical — they are the only food or beverage proven to have a direct link to obesity.

Such indulging is not only making us fatter — it’s making us poorer. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "obesity costs $95 billion a year in medical expenditures, of which half are paid through Medicare and Medicaid."

People don’t seem to understand how sugary beverages encourage weight gain more than solid foods. Here’s how: When we eat, there’s a tendency to fill up. But when people drink a high-calorie beverage, we still often feel the need to consume solid food. That means hundreds of empty calories — in addition to a meal.

Hey, I’m not saying we never should have a sip of soda. Heck, I had a glass of sugar-laden fruit-punch soda on Memorial Day. It was delicious. But the glass held eight ounces — not 32.

Bloomberg’s proposal won’t ban all sugary drinks. Nor will it have an impact on diet drinks or fruit juices. But it will help control the amount that diners and restaurant-goers are served in certain venues.

If that goes even a little bit toward curing New York’s obesity epidemic, it would be a good thing. Here’s hoping Philly follows suit.

Contact Jenice Armstrong at 215-854-2223 or heyjen@phillynews.com, or follow her on Twitter @jenicearmstrong. Read her blog at philly.com/philly/blogs/dnheyjen/.

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