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NYC Soda Ban

Obesity is a growing epidemic in this country, costing billions in health care and exacerbating chronic illness. New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, proposed a size ban on sugary drinks in May of 2012. The first public hearing on this matter was held yesterday, Tuesday July 24th. Many came out to either support or oppose the potential drink ban and the debate is just getting started.

What was intended to be a localized strategy to combat the growing obesity problem in this country, has since opened up debate on civil liberties and just how much power the government should have on our healthcare decisions. Opponents of the ban emphasized that this would lower profit margins for small businesses and more than likely not affect the health decisions made by those who live within the city. They also argue that the government has no right to create bans like this and decide what humans can and cannot consume.

When looking at the obesity rate statistics for New York City, one can certainly see why Mayor Bloomberg is proposing such a ban. New York City houses millions of people, and of those millions 58% of adults are obese or overweight. In addition, the city has suffered 5,800 deaths from related illnesses in 2011. And, the above obesity statistics do not reflect the amount of children who are obese and overweight, or experiencing chronic related illnesses.

Nationally, obesity related illnesses cost our health care system $150 billion a year. According to the CDC, this figure is 10% of the total National Medical Budget. Projected obesity rates show that by the year 2030 half of the adults in the United States will be obese or overweight and will add an additional $66 billion dollars in expenditures.

While the ban will only affect establishments regulated by the city health department, grocery stores, drug stores, and even 7-Eleven stores will continue to be able to sell sugary beverages in any size they want, as they are regulated by the state. The ban would limit serving sizes to 16 oz., and beverages made up of more than ½ milk or 70% juice, as well as diet sodas, will remain exempt. This ban would be for both self-serve drinking fountains, as well as prepackaged beverages.

Many health professionals participated in the hearing, providing evidence that soda is detrimental to one’s health has been brought up repeatedly. Those statements included “soda in large amounts is metabolically toxic” and “soda provides nothing more than empty calories.” While the argument is there showing that limiting soda intake will not impact the obesity problem, there is something to think about in the above statement:  if soda is nothing more than empty calories, then that means it leaves you feeling hungry. There is no nutritional value to the beverage. So if one continues to drink soda and feels unfilled, food intake is likely to increase, in either food and/or more of the sugary beverages, which will potentially perpetuate the cycle of obesity.

While the topics of obesity, physical inactivity, and weight gain are not going away, especially with the impact on our healthcare system, regulating soda intake may or may not fall flat come voting time on September 13th. However, this debate gives us more insight into just how damaging the problems of what we intake, how much we intake, and how much we expand can be on both our country’s finances, and our families.

  Sources USA Today - CBS News - Time -,8599,2120307,00.html CDC - WebMD -
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