Soda What?

They always say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Well, they also say that first step’s a doozy.

It’s been awhile since New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, proposed a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. Diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks, like milkshakes and pre-made lattes, as well as alcoholic beverages are excluded from this ban. Bloomberg’s proposed ban will not affect grocery stores or convenience stores, but will affect movie theaters, restaurants and food stands in the New York City area.

And hopefully the waistlines of New York City’s obese constituents– which make up 51 percent of the population.

All sorts of claims, accusations and assumptions have been made by publications and reputable voices nationwide. The Atlantic called Bloomberg a “classist” pointing out that the socioeconomic class most affected by Bloomberg’s proposed ban would be the poor. Bernard Goldberg argues that Bloomberg is creating a nanny state. NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell, who brought up some excellent objections, not the least of which is that it’s very difficult to pin obesity on one item.

To all of these claims, mentioned and unmentioned here, I say at least Bloomberg is doing something. Instead of standing idly by watching his city surpass it’s current obesity level– again 51 percent– he’s going after a food item that assuredly isn’t solely responsible but is a culprit.

The Atlantic accused Bloomberg of attacking the poor because he doesn’t like soda. Obesity is not a poor man’s disease. Obesity it is not a poor man’s problem. Obesity is everyone’s problem. “Overweight and obesity and their associated health problems have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system,” read the CDC’S website. The medical costs, direct and indirect, of obesity totaled about $147 billion dollars, in 2008– and those who weren’t obese or overweight shared in the expense. Indeed, New York City’s proposed soda ban will have major affects on those of a certain socioeconomic status, but as they are the ones who are most affected by obesity in the first place, I do not see how this is a bad thing.

According to the Center for Disease Control, behavior and environment play a significant role in causing people to be overweight and obese. These two factors are also the two greatest areas for prevention and treatment actions. To be more clear, genes, metabolism, culture and socioeconomic status are less easily changed than your personal behavior or your environment.

As a child, your parents reprimanded you for unhealthy behaviors. If you didn’t perform well in school, your driving privileges may have been rescinded until your report card showed improvement.  In this respect, Mr. Goldberg may be correct; Bloomberg is creating a nanny state in New York City. But, like what our parents did for us, what Bloomberg is doing for New York City is for their own good.

Now, a lot of those who oppose this ban complain that it undermines New York’s ability to make their own decisions– which is absolutely incorrect. The ban doesn’t outlaw the sale of sodas or sugary beverages, it simply makes it economically less attractive to buy larger sizes.

What’s the difference between a leader taking a stand against one of the culprits of obesity and the EPA taking a stand against a business that abuses the environment through pollution?

While listening to NPR’s coverage of the ban, one individual said something to the effect of, “if I can’t drink soda, what am I supposed to drink?”

How about water? You know, that substance that is vital to your health and well-being?

Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons so many are so opposed to Bloomberg’s ban isn’t health-related. It’s because the ban of soda could affect their bottom line.

It’s significantly cheaper for Coca-Cola to use high fructose corn syrup than real cane sugar in its soft drinks. Cane sugar costs roughly $0.33 per pound while corn syrup is only $0.20 per pound. Let me just add that over $77 billion dollars in corn subsidies were paid to U.S. farmers between 1995 and 2010 by the U.S. government. Draw your own conclusions.






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