Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I Support Bloomberg's Ban on Sugary Drinks

I was going to write a post about why I agree with Mayor Bloomberg's decision to ban the sale of extra-large sugary drinks in some places, but Jill from Feministe already wrote most of it for me! She writes:
But the truth is that soda isn’t just mildly unhealthy — it’s really incredibly bad for you, and it’s addictive, and it has no nutritional value whatsoever. And Americans are consuming more of it than at any other point in human history, with disastrous results for our health....
Accusations of nanny-statism abound, but the state regulates food and substances all the time. And it should. Personal choice is important, but in New York we regulate the “personal choice” to buy alcohol before noon on Sundays; to drink in bars after 4am; to buy cigarettes if you’re under 18. 
I don't think that banning extra-large sugary drinks violates personal freedom. Smaller-sized sugary drinks are still legal, and you can buy as many smaller sodas as you want. Additionally, extra-large sugary drinks are still legal in places like grocery stores, so you can still buy a huge thing of soda for your family, for a party, or to guzzle down on your own at home if you so choose. I think the main impetus of the new regulation is to remind people that buying a super sized jumbo coke at the movie theater is simply terrible for you; and to remind companies that they are not supposed to sell products that are toxic. I'm not upset that restaurants in NYC aren't allowed to put rat poison in my beverage. And I'm not upset that they can't sell me a giant soda either.

Furthermore, while some think Bloomberg's ban smacks of classism, I think the ban sends a powerful message to corporations that they are not going to be allowed to exploit people and sell them things that are harmful to their health. When giant cokes are cheaper than healthier alternatives, they offer "more bang for your buck." Latina and black children see 50-80 percent more soda ads than white children. It is very targeted marketing. It exploits people, and children in particular. It makes them sick. And that shouldn't be ok.

That being said, this ban is only a step in the right direction and fails to address any of the more serious issues or root causes, like problematic subsidies, the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup, food deserts that leave thousands of people without access to healthy food, and predatory advertising. But if I have no problem with the state getting involved in regulating, for example, high fructose corn syrup (or the sale of cigarettes to minors), I have no problem with the state regulating the sale of extra-large sugary drinks in some establishments.

As one commenter on the Feministe article said:
I’m not actually opposed to [the ban]. I do enjoy watching certain kinds of people wig out as if it’s the greatest looming threat to our personal liberties in years, because hello the fact that soda and HFCS is cheap and ubiquitous is actually a threat to your liberties.

P.S. For a truly alarming lecture on the harmful effects of sugar, watch this video.

16 comments:

  1. What happened to "keep your laws off my body"??

    Are you familiar at all with the Peltzman effect? It's apparent that Mayor Bloomberg is not.

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  2. If you're referring to my stance on abortion, contraception, and women's rights, I don't think my position conflicts. You're still able to buy extra-large sodas in many places (including grocery stores) and you can still buy soda in general. So if someone wants to drink gallons of soda, they are still legally able to do so. I don't actually think the regulation will be that practically effective - as in, I don't think we're going to see a major drop in obesity or soda consumption in general because of the ban. But I do think it sends a message to companies that soda is bad for your health, especially in large quantities; that portion sizes are out of control in the US; and that companies shouldn't be selling things that are that bad for your health (some would say toxic or poisonous). The sale of cigarettes and alcohol are regulated, and I see this as something similar.

    I'm not entirely sure the Peltzman Effect is applicable here. Regulations around cigarettes and cigarette advertising, including bans on them in NYC, have been tremendously effective at cutting down on the number of cigarette smokers. What risky behavior do you think people will engage in because they can't have a super sized drink at the movie theater?

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  3. I was referring to the slogan itself. It seems to me that a law regulating the quantity of something people want to ingest would fall under that umbrella. "Keep your laws off my uterus" just isn't as catchy.

    WRT the Peltzman effect: As you've pointed out, there are ways around the law. I think it's entirely possible that people will respond to the new law by drinking MORE soda in unregulated settings. Studies have shown that banning the sale junk food in schools does not reduce its consumption among the students the bans seek to protect: http://www.asanet.org/images/journals/docs/pdf/soe/Jan12SOEFeature.pdf

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    2. I think you're right that it is entirely possible that people will drink more soda. Maybe drink two 24 oz. cokes instead of one 32 oz. coke or something like that. But they would have to buy two in that scenario, making it more expensive and more of a conscious decision. I think the potential for people to increase risky/unhealthy behaviors is actually pretty small in this case.

      The study you linked to is interesting. And I can easily understand why it doesn't work. And we already agree on whether or not we think the ban would have any dramatic effects.

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  4. the target marketing point is literally the dumbest thing I have ever read. Abortion clinics are placed in poor/ethnic areas for a reason. Advertising angencies exist for a reason. Should the speed limit would cap off at 35mph to protect everybody. Think before you write, just because the hip/cool/fun (or even feminist) thing to do is to jump on this bandwagon. Do I wish people ate more lean protein, low fat/carb, fresh produce and consumed less soda, fast food, msg's etc... yes of course. We can't make a law saying you have to, it would be like making a law forcing people to exercise. Love it or leave it baby... #america

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    1. Advertising agencies do exist for a reason: to get people to buy things, even if those things are not good for them. They target children, and studies have shown that Latina and black children are exposed to more soda commercials than white children. Saying "advertising agencies exist for a reason" only strengthens my point.

      No one is making a law saying that people have to eat more lean protein or fresh produce, or even consume less soda. And saying that certain places can't sell extra-large sodas is not the same thing as forcing people to exercise. We have all sorts of regulations for places that produce and sell food, and many regulations around foods that cause adverse health reactions.

      Also, I always think before I write, thank you.

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  5. ramen noodles are bad, but let's not let poor people buy them because they are high in sodium. Everybody must shop at trader joe's, farmer market's, or whole foods. What is it with poor people these day's, trying drink a large coke in their non air-conditioned one bedroom apartment. Tell this poor black and hispanics you speak of to get a job so they can buy a naked or an odwalla.

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    1. If you're arguing that my position is classist, I'm well aware of the issues of class and privilege that surround healthy eating. But this ban affects everybody, not just a certain part of the population. Moreover, I support the ban because I feel that companies are exploiting people, and low-income people in particular. I completely understand why someone might buy a larger coke that costs the same or less than a smaller coke. And I understand why someone would buy a coke vs. an odwalla. We need a radical change in the way our food is produced and priced do that more people have access to healthy foods, including people who use SNAP.

      If you watched the lecture I linked to, you would know that I don't buy or think it is a great idea to buy naked or odwalla juices/smoothies.

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    2. The Ban does effect everybody, but not everybody equally.

      "We need a radical change in the way our food is produced and priced do that more people have access to healthy foods, including people who use SNAP." 100% agree with this statement- Even though banning a large coke vs a small coke isn't a big deal this is not the way to attack such a large problem. You don't kill a tree by pulling off a leaf... cut down the root.

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  7. http://dailycaller.com/2012/06/08/paul-ryan-nov-election-is-about-natural-rights-vs-government-granted-rights-video/

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  8. I think he should ban feminists. Most people enjoy soda more than feminists.

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  9. Oh wow, Shannon. I hadn't read the comments you're getting until now, and I have to say that I'm not sure why extra-large sugary drinks are such a triggering topic for anonymous vitriol.

    I find this discussion (of the ban itself, not of angry commenters) really interesting. As someone who grew up lower class drinking sugary drinks as a primary beverage who--as an adult--has stopped drinking soda all together, I feel like I've been on different sides in this equation. I remember summertimes when me and my cousins would get herded out of the house and told to stay outside and play until an adult came to get us (this cut down on the constant opening and closing of doors which was hell on the electricity bill and filled the house with flies). We'd be put out there with a cooler full of "juice" (aka sugar water) and Vess soda. Anytime we went anywhere when I was child, my dad was equipped with one of those GIGANTIC refillable quick stop cups full of Pepsi. I truly didn't understand how bad this habit was for all of us. As recently as undergrad I was downing four or five cans of Diet Pepsi a day, erroneously thinking that it was the calories that were the main problem.

    I understand that people don't want their personal liberty to choose taken from them, and I don't want to be patronizing by suggesting that people aren't capable of making decisions in the face of advertising, but when it starts so young and is so culturally pervasive, there's really very little space for critical consumption of those messages; it's hard to question something that just seems like the norm. So I really liked what you said about this being more of a message to the manufacturers and advertisers than to the consumers. Because I think you're right--this probably won't have much impact on how much soda people drink. They'll likely continue to buy mass quantities at grocery stores and to just refill earlier if they have to buy smaller portions (though I can see how it might make a difference in a restaurant setting where you tend to drink however much is given to you, regardless of the size). But if this takes a swipe at marketing practices, it starts to change the conversation from the inside out. Regulations on tobacco were equally deemed patronizing and threatening to civil liberties, but they also dramatically shifted the power dynamic from the corporations to the consumers. When corporations weren't allowed to use predatory marketing schemes, the consumers finally got the kind of power to choose that they'd wanted to have all along--and people do still choose to smoke cigarettes, just not in the disturbing numbers and blind acceptance that they did before.

    One of my biggest frustrations is the idea that protecting corporations means protecting individuals. They are not one and the same, and they are often operating from opposing perspectives. True individual agency means dismantling some of that corporate power.

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  10. I could not have said this better myself. People are treating this as a restriction of the food we eat, but there is nothing "foodlike" about soda- even junk food and fast food contain more nutritional content! This is no different from restricting the sale of mood-altering substances such as alcohol (another great point you made). I see a lot of incredulousness and negativity around this bad, even from unlikely sources like "The Daily Show," and it's ridiculous, especially given the very REAL restrictions being placed on women's bodies- much more harmful than smaller cups of soda! Keep up the good work.

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    1. sorry, i meant to say "ban."

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