New York's Soda Ban: A Misstep in the Right Direction

  • In the United States of America, the government seems to think that it needs to protect people from themselves. Thus, we have helmet laws for motorcyclists. We have seatbelt laws for passengers in vehicles. Now, we have soda laws?? Wait a minute, what about the land of the free? Well, the problem is that all of our vises and misfortunes cost everyone a lot of money in healthcare costs and disability payments.

     

    Now, Mayor Michael Bloomburg of New York City wants to ban soda drinks over 16 ounces from public eateries in an effort to curtail the millions of dollars lost to the obesity epidemic. Although this law has not yet been passed, it is certainly attracting the attention of the food industry and is sure to be challenged if it does pass. But even if this law were in effect, would it really have an impact on the obesity crisis? I doubt it because Americans are just too hooked on sugar.

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    Sugar is an addictive substance like heroin and alcohol. Before aspirin or penicillin existed, sugar was one of the original medicines used by the apothecaries (that’s what pharmacists used to be called) centuries ago. Sugar is all natural and killing thousands of people every day. Obesity is not the only problem cause by sugar. Heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes are all associated in one way or another to our favorite drug, sugar. We crave it, we seek it out, and we cannot stop consuming it.

     

    If sugary drinks like sodas are so bad for us, then why not ban them? That concept did not work out so well when we tried to ban alcoholic drinks. And of all things on the market, what we really should be banning are tobacco products. Ultimately, when it comes down to protecting us from ourselves, the government is really powerless because addicts always find ways around those silly rules. So although Mayor Bloomberg has good intentions, this step towards improving the health of thousands will surely falter.

     

    But bravo for trying Mayor Bloomberg; New York’s attempt to ban large sodas has definitely raised the eye brows of the entire country as more become aware of this public health problem.  In fact, many states like New York and California are running public health campaigns to change people’s minds about what they drink. In New York, this law might actually be part of their campaign strategy along with the New York’s educational blitz. In California, the campaign is called “Rethink Your Drink”. By bombarding people with the facts about sodas, public health officials are hoping to trigger change. One fact that seems to be most startling is the actual amounts of sugar found in soda drinks. By taking the number of grams of sugar and dividing that number by 4, one gets the actual teaspoons of sugar (40 gms = 10 tsp). For those who drink one soda per day, the amount of sugar consumed accumulates to five pounds in just one month. A five pound per month habit is a very serious addiction that threatens the lives of millions.

     

    Hopefully a few of those millions are listening and will contemplate changing their drink choices. Yes, drinking soda is a choice and you are free to make that choice, at least for now anyway. But I predict that those who choose to habitually make unhealthy choice will eventually lose the ability to be insured. Just like with the bad drivers who pay extraordinary insurance premiums if they can get insurance at all, the health insurance companies and possibly the government are going to fight back eventually. Consequences, not laws, seem to be the only way to promote change sometimes.

Published On: June 20, 2012