June 6, 2012
After banning smoking cigarettes in city parks, beaches, public plazas and boardwalks in 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued his heath crusade last week by proposing a legal limit on sugary drinks.
The ban, aimed to reduce obesity, would ban the sale of drinks in containers exceeding 16 ounces that contain sugar. The ban would impact restaurants, delis, movie theatres, stadiums and street vendors who sell any drink, unless the drink contains 70 percent or more fruit juice or milk.
Such a ban is unlikely to be effective, Heritage Foundation regulation expert James Gattuso explains:
It’s the regulatory equivalent of squeezing a balloon. Restricting one poor nutrition option doesn’t mean the alternatives chosen will not be equally poor—especially if people are as ignorant or apathetic about their own health as the mayor seems to believe.
The proposal brings into question the scope and future of regulations intended to improve public health. A 24 ounce Coke (containing 81 grams of sugar) would be banned under Bloomberg’s regulation. A 24 ounce Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Frappucino, not covered by the ban, actually has more sugar content (87 grams). Could the regulations expand to coffee and other drinks?
Gattuso worries that there’s no end in sight:
It’s hard to see where this will all end. As the editors of the Los Angeles Times suggest, the “next logical step would be to require restaurants to serve vegetables with every food order, or to require every New Yorker to join a health club, or to ban ice cream.”
What do you think of Bloomberg’s proposal?