New York City Bans Size of Sugary Drinks: Saving lives or a waste of energy?

Recently, New York City has set a ban on the sale of all sugary beverages over 16 oz. in size in restaurants, theaters and street carts (set to go into effect March, 2013). A bold statement, but well within the health agenda of this large US city. The NYC Board of Health and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been on the forefront of city wide public policy decisions to educate society on healthful practices and take a stance against the ever increasing waist line of America. Such past practices include being the first city to ban cigarette use in bars and parks and the forced inclusion of calories on chain restaurants and food provider’s menus.

This ban on the size of sugary beverages is the first ban on food intake to be approved in the US. This is not surprising, as America is about freedom of choice! We do not want to be told what we can and cannot consume. That said when does it stop being a rational personal decision and become a public health or even security threat? Where is the line drawn where intervention is necessary?

Regardless of where you may stand on the government’s control of our food and beverage consumption, you cannot deny that over consumption is leading to a multitude of health problems for Americans, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis, some forms of cancer, and of course obesity; a stated epidemic in the country. Sugary beverages are at the forefront of empty calories consumed, without a second thought to how they are ultimately affecting our bodies. With these sicknesses we are not able to function at our highest capacity as a nation, our medical bills are astronomical, and a good portion of our military eligible population is unable to pass the entry level fitness and health tests. The worst part may be that there is no sign of slowing this trend in our society.

The goal of the NYC sugary beverage ban, explained Major Bloomberg, is not to restrict, but rather to educate. Nothing is stopping someone from purchasing two, or even three or ten 16 oz. sugary drinks. The idea is to help people start paying attention to serving size; to become aware of how much they are actually consuming. This ban is one small act to try and desperately stop the freedom of choice decisions that we make every day from continuing to be the wrong ones. Good intention, but will it work?

There is no doubt in my mind that the soda consumer will find a way to consume as much soda as they wish, and the soft-drink industry will adapt and find a way to provide it to them.  For example, convenient stores and coffee shops are not banned from sales, and they most definitely have their share of non-nutrient beverage choices.

As with much of the nutrition education in the nation, the educational stance this policy is trying to make may, and can, be easily ignored. However novel the ban may appear to be, it is a small step in the direction of decreasing consumption of empty calorie- high sugar and low nutrient- food in the American diet and therefore in decreasing the unhealthy lifestyles and chronic diseases that accompany them.

Bottom line: Don’t wait for the government to ban or restrict foods and beverages you KNOW you should not consume; choose to not have sugary beverages as a staple in you or your family’s diet and you will be making a huge personal decision toward the prevention of sickness and disease and toward improved quality of life.

Stay tuned for the outcome of this seemingly small, but bold and potentially contentious “soda ban” as it ruffles the feathers of NYC.

References:

American Journal of Preventative Medicine: Yale Study

Yale News