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This might not go down well with all our readers (no pun intended), but, yes, we do support Mayor Bloomberg’s portion cap on sodas and sugary drinks.
Polls show that slightly more than half of New Yorkers oppose restricting the serving size of fountain soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces. Yet, we feel that the mayor is on the right track on this issue, and that, in general, his initiative is a positive step in raising awareness about one of our top health scourges — obesity, particularly childhood obesity.
The portion cap wouldn’t make it illegal for anyone to buy or ingest sugar, but would essentially force consumers to “slow down” their sugar suctioning. The law would basically create an inconvenience: Instead of buying one supersize cup of soda, one would have to buy two — or possibly even more, depending on the severity of one’s sugar addiction — 16-ounce cups; or would have to elevate oneself from one’s seat and walk back to the counter and get a refill (expending energy, burning empty calories that one has just put on by slurping down the admittedly already oversaturated 16-ounce soda). Seriously, how arduous and horrible is that? Not very.
As the mayor, health experts and youth advocates all point out, economically challenged, minority neighborhoods, like much of the Bronx, for example, are ground zero for obesity in New York City — the highest children’s obesity rates are there, topping 30 percent, which is, frankly, horrifying.
On the other hand, many accuse Bloomberg of creating a “nanny state” — injecting government inappropriately into people’s personal lives and freedoms. But most of us, except for possibly hardcore libertarians, will agree that government does have a public responsibility to protect people’s health. That’s why we have warnings on cigarette packs, why youngsters can’t by alcohol or alcohol-infused “energy drinks,” and so forth.
Bottom line, obesity is no laughing matter. Over time, being overweight severely taxes joints and the back, but more seriously, it’s a leading cause of heart attacks, diabetes and early death. And of course, sugar water, particularly when in acidy soda, simply rots the teeth.
We’re glad to hear Bloomberg, after his third (and, yes, final) term ends, will continue to campaign against the serving of supersize sugary drinks. Asked if he would do so last week at a press conference at Lucky’s Cafe — a business that is voluntarily instituting portion caps — the mayor assured he would stay active on the sugary drinks issue. “You can take that to the bank,” he stated.
The problem, as he and others note, is that sugar-packed pop and other highly sweetened drinks simply aren’t filling, so kids gulp them right down — 64 ounces at a time, for a KFC jumbo cup, for example — ingesting a huge amount of calories, and yet remain just as hungry as before, ready to vacuum in still more syrupy goo.
Again, people will respond that it’s their right to decide what to put into their bodies, and how much. But again, no one is banning sugar- or fructose-filled beverages — just making it a bit more of a hassle to chug humongous amounts of them in one fell swoop.
And is it right that a person currently can’t even get a 16-ounce cup at a movie theater? Why do all their cups have to be jumbo-sized? The answer is clear: Huge profits are being made on what is essentially cheap sugar water.
We hope the administration wins its appeal of the soda industry’s lawsuit against the portion ban, which was dismissed by Judge Tingling last week. As Mayor Bloomberg said, following New York’s no-smoking law, much of the world now also has similar laws — including most of Europe and Latin America, with no-smoking laws now gaining steam in Asia, too. As goes New York, so goes the world. And that’s precisely what the soda industry and Big Sugar are so afraid of.