Published on: June 15, 2012
We continue to get email about the proposed NYC ban on jumbo sugary soft drinks, and the possibility that it could be extended to all sort of other large sizes of products that the NYV Board of Health believes are unhealthy and therefore contributing to the city's obesity crisis.
One MNB user wrote:I'm not in favor of Orwellian control of things like drink sizes. HOWEVER, what seems to have been lost in the discussion is that there is something huge in the idea of managing down drink sizes (and food portions overall):
We all know that humans have basically zero self-control, and like puppies, will continue to consume whatever is put in front of them until it is gone - - so somehow influencing options makes sense from a behavioral perspective.
A recent study put Americans' caloric intake from beverages at around 24% of total caloric intake, yet people to a great extent don't think about drinks when counting calories - -it's thought of as sort of a free play.
There are roughly 350 calories and about 88 grams of sugar in a single 32 oz cola drink -- which chips away quite a bit toward daily recommended intake of 2000-2500 calories and exceeds the recommended daily intake of around 50g sugar (depending on where you source your info).
When you consider that a lot of these drinks will be consumed with food, and that restaurant food portions are very often too big and unhealthy, it starts to get scary...
So, I understand Bloomberg's objectives, but government mandate can't be the answer (impractical, unfair; people can apparently easily work around gun laws; gaming soda restrictions might just be doable).
If there could be some market-driven way for consumers to somehow be trained to be satisfied with non-excessive portion sizes (food and drink), there could be forward progress. I wish I had an answer. But as we're so trained to equate 'good value' with 'big meal', getting our arms around this problem will be a tall order (puns intended).
The big problem is I'm not a puppy. And don't want to be treated that way. (Other than having my tummy rubbed from time to time.)
MNB user Michael Galef wrote:While obesity is a major concern and causes our country tons of dollars, I don’t see the rationale in limiting soda sizes. Good marketing and promotions will get around that like buy one get the second for 1/3 off. It is about education, tax the drink(s) like tobacco and put the money toward obesity education.
Another MNB user wrote:How much ketchup you can use – lots of HFCS in ketchup – and how about those lunatics who rip open 6 or so sugar packets and dump them in their coffee? How are they going to control that? Have the packets attached to the cups with a limit by size? Hire people who will spy on patrons in delis and restaurants? There are probably a lot of TSA wannabes who would love to be the CCCP (Calorie Control & Compliance Police).
MNB user Scott J. Proch wrote:Wow… it’s really happening. I’ve been reading your work here long enough to know about your stand on tobacco and why, but over a year ago, I wrote in talking about where these bans might lead and now, here we are. This slope has been slippery for years and is even more complex with all the lobbying that will go on around it. I’m sure NYC will hear from the Popcorn Growers Association very soon!
Each time we let them take a little freedom from us, it just gives them the green light to look for what’s next.
I will steadfastly any effort to equate the proposed jumbo soda ban with restrictions on where people can smoke. Such a comparison is nonsense. Tobacco kills. Directly. Products made of tobacco are engineered to addict people. And the tobacco restrictions that have gone into effect over the past decade or so have made offices, baseball stadiums, restaurants, bars and airplanes - among other places - not just more pleasant places to be for non-smokers, but also safer, since second-hand smoke can be deadly.
One of the real problems with the NYC soda proposal is that it will allow some people to refer back to the tobacco restrictions and make the whole "slippery slope" argument. They have nothing in common. Nothing.
From another reader:We are at the edge here. Maybe the mayor should put cameras on every package of food, drinks and snacks. That way they could monitor people in their homes. If someone drinks a two-liter soft drink in less than allowable time period (designated by the food police), they would be eligible for behavioral re-programming. Lots of movies and/or books can be referenced as examples of what the future might be like.
As individuals we have personal responsibility to manage our food and beverage intake in a rational way. Having struggled my entire life with the roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain, I get it. As parents (and our kids are now adults), that responsibility extends to an even higher level.
There is another angle here. It's economics and the P&L. Prices will rise. If movie theaters have limits on food, snack and drink sales, movie ticket prices will increase. If restaurants have limits on what they can sell, the price for food (i.e., entrees, salads, sandwiches, etc.) will increase. In these venues, the real profits come from beverages, snacks and side dishes.
What will be the impact of higher prices for entertainment and food-away-home?
And banning certain items or package sizes in selected venues, will almost certainly increase those sales (or sales of related items) in other venues. It's not exactly like applying Gresham's Law to the sale of food, snacks and beverages. But it's close enough to make you think about another wonderful rule: Always beware the law of unintended consequences.
MNB user Lon Whitmill wrote:Are we going to ban self serve soda machines as well. A 16 oz soda with a refill is over the “nanny state” limit.
Drink beer, smoke pot and have unprotected sex but please, please, please do not drink a Big Gulp. It is bad for your health.
Is this a great country or what?
From another MNB user:If I were Michael Bloomberg, I’d be embarrassed as hell for going down this path. If he wants to move the needle on better health, then he should promote lots of exercise, give kids a good ole P.E. class during the day while their at school and go eat a cheeseburger in Central Park. What a waste of time.
MNB user Marty Berlin wrote:This is a great example of why those with a conservative leaning want limited government. The lines are hard to draw once government steps into any arena, including that of legislating what we should and should not be eating. In my opinion, they certainly play a legitimate role in food safety, but trying to legislate what kind of foods we eat is way out of line. Eating “junk food” occasionally and in moderation is not going to do much harm to someone who already values their health and fitness and is living a lifestyle that promotes those things. And for those who do/are not, their freedom to choose should override what a few government officials (in their great wisdom) would impose upon them. It is ridiculous to think that a mayor and a Board of Health believes they need to make decisions for the general population regarding what they can or can’t eat.
MNB user Scott Rickhoff wrote:In the 30’s they called it fascism but now it’s called progressivism… regardless how it’s whitewashed… it ends up being fascism with a smile.
MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:I agree all this talk of banning this and limiting that is a bridge way too far… But it is not totally without redeeming social value… it makes for great Jon Stewart shows!
It must be particularly galling to some folks that it is a Republican Mayor who is pushing for the ban, and people like the liberal Stewart who are mocking it.
The other day, connecting two stories, I asked the following question:Which law is dumber, one that makes the use of public profanity illegal, or one that makes the selling of jumbo soft drinks illegal?
To which one reader responded: Kevin, The answer, of course, is “Yes."
And commenting on the small controversy created by my "McDonald's food is crappy food" comments, MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote: Admit it, you are a food snob, nothing really wrong with it. But, when you get right down to it, you look down your nose at those who willingly choose to eat at McDonalds, or any other fast food restaurant not named In n Out, Five Guys or a few others whose names escape me right now. That’s when I think you take the “analysis with attitude” thing too far. Whether you think so or not there is a place for these fast food feeders in the landscape. For the record, I don’t care much for McDonalds either, but I also don’t like your attitude toward them and the people who frequent them.
Oh, come on.
Let's be clear. I can think and say that McDonald's serves generally crappy food, but that doesn't mean I won't stop at one if I'm on a long drive when there are not a lot of other options. I used to take my kids there all the time - especially after late Little league games when I just needed to get food into them, and that's what they wanted.
I may be a little bit of a snob about food, but I don't look down my nose at people who eat at McDonald's - whether they eat there because they like it, or because that's all they can afford, or whatever.
I like to think I have standards ... though I willingly violate them often, and sometimes even cheerfully.
All I'm really doing here is arguing that better tasting food does not have to be more expensive, and that it is worth reaching for.
But looking down my nose at people who eat at Mickey D's? Give me a break.
(I have to go in a minute. I have to go buy some octopus to grill up for dinner tonight, and then figure out what white wine I'm going to serve with it...)
I recorded my FaceTime video earlier this week in a hotel room, where I was preparing to give a speech. Which prompted one MNB user to write:Next time you record a video, you may want to make the bed first. (You wanted to hear what’s on our minds...)
Could have been worse. Could have been a blonde in it.
And, writing about my quoting of Neil Diamond lyrics, MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:Congrats on being a Mets fan and knowing the lines of the song that is played at every Red Sox home game.
Hey, I get around. I'm Irish, but I know a little Yiddish. I like to think that I am the product of a good, rounded liberal arts education - not to mention a decent amount of life experience.
Besides, that's a song that Jimmy Buffett does at almost every concert.