Mayor Bloomberg’s ‘Big Gulp Ban’ and the Health of New York City
03 Jun, 2012
If the food police has a chief, it may very well be New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His battles with the food industry are quickly becoming the stuff of legend. And his latest gambit is his boldest yet: Bloomberg just announced a plan to ban the sale of any sweetened beverage over 16 ounces at all restaurants, delis, and sports arenas in New York City.
And just so the soda industry doesn’t feel singled out, this ban would apply to sports drinks and sweetened iced tea, along with pretty much anything with added sugars—although the Starbucks Frappucino likely makes it through on a technicality; dairy products like it (as well as fruit juice, “diet” drinks and booze) are exempted.
This latest move comes on the heels of the city’s successful (and much copied) transfat ban as well as its public media campaign against soda called “Don’t Drink Yourself Fat”—not to mention its proposal to limit salt in processed food. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed recently that these and many other efforts may be starting to pay off for the Big Apple. The obesity rate in NYC among kids dropped five percent over the last five years.
So why enact an outright ban on large drinks when there’s evidence [PDF] that a penny-per-ounce soda tax would have cut consumption while generating needed revenue for the public coffers? Do you really have to ask?
The short answer is because it would be impossible to get one passed—thanks in large part to the efforts of the deep-pocketed members of the American Beverage Association (ABA). PepsiCo was willing to spend $40 million in a single year to help kill a federal soda tax while the ABA itself buried a proposed Philadelphia soda tax through a $10 million donation to a local hospital’s anti-obesity efforts. And now comes word of Pepsi’s plan to co-opt the youth of the world by hosting “live-streamed concerts” on Twitter. Wait. Concerts? On Twitter? Just win, baby.