Earlier this week, New York city took a first real public policy step aimed at reducing obesity through direct influence on consumer purchases. The city health board voted to limit consumption of copious soft drink calories. Sales of sugary beverages larger than 16 oz in theaters, restaurants, and street carts will be banned starting early next year. People can buy as many 16 oz cups of soda as they want.
We wrote about the proposed ban several months ago, and commended Mayor Michael Bloomberg for taking such bold steps. Bloomberg, a billionaire who needs no one to fill his campaign coffers, is probably one of the few politicians who can truly act in favor of the public interest without caring about the backroom financial backlash afterwards. Not to say that lobbying groups did not try to battle this measure. Faux consumer groups set up by the American Beverage Association (a trade group representing Coke, Pepsi, and others) spent a million dollars to campaign against the measure.
The group – New Yorkers for Beverage Choices – tried all the tricks in the book to convince consumers that their liberties are being taken away. They played on the chord of hurting small businesses.
What they are really worried about is the implication for their sales on a national level. Success in one city will spur legislation in other, and then at a state level, and then in Washington DC.
Reminder - A 16 oz soft drink, which is 2 cups, contains 12 to 14 teaspoons of sugar!!
Americans are consuming way too many calories from soft drinks, simply by not thinking about consumption. The beverage industry has made it exceedingly easy and psychologically rewarding for people to supersize. Public policy measures like this are needed in order to make the default choice become the healthier choice.