New York City plans to ban the sale of large sodas in an effort to combat obesity.
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on oversized sodas in New York City on Wednesday, some controversy has been bubbling.
The ban, introduced as a measure to curb obesity, would prohibit the sale of sugary beverages over 16 oz. in restaurants, movie theaters, delis and sports arenas. The legislation, if approved, could take effect as early as March.
While some city-dwellers are applauding the measure as groundbreaking, others are questioning the city government’s right to control people’s portion sizes.
New York University senior nutrition student Ying Lam, views the proposed ban as a step in the right direction for New York City. “I genuinely support banning sugar sweetened beverages over 16 oz.,” Lam wrote in an e-mail. “8 oz. is one serving and many people don’t realize that a 20 oz. bottle contains multiple servings. I understand that people love getting more for their money, but I honestly don’t regard soda or energy drinks as food items.”
Meanwhile, beverage industry trade associations and soda companies find “Nanny Bloomberg’s” proposed legislation hard to swallow.
The American Beverage Association called the ban “zealous” and unfairly pointed. “The Health Department has shown time and again that they are not above a ‘What can we get away with?’ strategy,” wrote the ABA on its website. “This new proposal is simply another attempt to mislead the public in an effort to push a very personal agenda.”
If the legislation passes, one thing is for sure: the young adult demographic might be missing supersized sodas most of all.
Teenagers and young adults consume more sugary drinks than any other age group; according to recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four U.S. teens drinks soda daily. On average teens get 6.7% and 8.2% of their daily caloric intake from sodas.
Barbara Olendzki, nutrition program director at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Applied Nutrition, said that she sees overconsumption of soda and as a major problem among young adults, who often view themselves as “invincible” to a little bit — or even a lot — of empty caloric intake from sugary beverages and energy drinks.
“In this particular age group, they’re after a sort of rush, and these drinks are marketed to that younger population,” said Olendzki. “The problem is that without some kind of guidelines or boundaries, those years are the ones that serve as the foundation for health habits later in life.”
But the proposed ban does still has plenty of loopholes for the city’s young soda lovers.
The ban would not apply to grocery stores or convenience stores — and diet sodas, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, and dairy-based drinks would all be exempt from the size regulation. That means all of these beverages would still be fair game:
• Peanut Butter Shake from Shake Shack (860 cal, 52 g fat, 69 g sugar): it’s dairy-based, after all.
• Venti Java Chip Frappuccino, made with 2% milk and whipped cream (560 cal, 20 g fat): fans of the famous frosty Starbucks beverage need not worry. As another drink that’s mostly dairy, New York City’s ban wouldn’t touch Venti Frappuccinos.
• 24 oz. Frozen Margarita (approx. 543 cal, 0.5 g fat, 24.5 g sugar): as long as you’re not drinking a virgin version, the sky’s the limit on the size of your happy hour margarita. The proposed legislation would not apply to any alcoholic beverages.
• 24 oz. Diet Coke (0 cal, 0 g fat, 0 g sugar): diet sodas at any size would be unaffected by the ban.
• Unlimited soda fountain refills: even though the proposed ban would forbid chain restaurants from distributing soda fountain cups larger than 16 oz., nothing would prohibit a free refill policy.
So, even though city regulations might discourage the sale of huge drinks in the future, the proposed measure will by no means get rid of them altogether.
Overindulging on sugary drinks will remain a question of personal choice, more than availability of enormous beverages.
As a nutrition student, Lam thinks that lack of healthy alternatives is as central to the obesity problem as portion control: “I don’t think it’s the size of the soda that’s causing obesity,” she said. “It’s the fact that soda is so readily available and inexpensive. It’s difficult to walk into a bodega and find wholesome options.”
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