More than three-quarters of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks is a bad idea.
Describing it as a life-saving public health initiative, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban last week on sugary beverages in containers exceeding 16 fluid ounces. The mayor said 58 percent of New York City adults are overweight or obese. He added that obesity kills thousands of city residents each year and results in $4 billion annually in health care costs.
The majority of readers, while opposing Bloomberg’s proposed ban, support similar health regulations adopted by New York City and other localities. For example, 84 percent say a ban on smoking in restaurants and parks is a good idea. And 72 percent say restaurants should be required to post calorie counts on menus.
Slightly more than half of respondents—55 percent—say a ban on artificial trans fat in restaurant food is a good idea.
The proposed ban on sugary drinks—which would be the first of its kind nationally—would cover sales in restaurants and other eateries, movie theaters and sports arenas but not grocery stores or convenience stores. It would apply to soda, sports and energy drinks, sweetened teas and coffees, sweetened fruit drinks and vitamin water (with more than 25 calories per 8 oz. serving). Violations would result in $200 fines.
First lady Michelle Obama commented Tuesday on Bloomberg’s effort to ban sugary drinks. “We applaud anyone who’s stepping up to think about what changes work in their communities,” she said. “New York is one example.”
Critics say there is no evidence that restricting access to large sugary drinks would produce a significant decrease in obesity. Bloomberg says studies show that when larger portions are in front of people, they simply consume more. He also argues that the ban would not restrict freedom of choice because additional drink purchases and free refills would be allowed.
Roughly 775 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted June 4 and 5.
In your view, is a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks a good idea or a bad idea?
Good idea: 24%
Bad idea: 76%
What is your view of similar health regulations adopted by New York City and other localities?
Ban on smoking in restaurants and parks:
Good idea: 84%
Bad idea: 16%
Ban on artificial trans fat in restaurant food:
Good idea: 55%
Bad idea: 45%
Requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on menus:
Good idea: 72%
Bad idea: 28%
First, let me say that after decades of significant consumption I made a conscious decision to stop drinking anything from this category, regular or diet, several months ago. The key in that statement is that “I” made the decision, not the government. This is senseless and useless legislation that takes away one more tiny bit of personal freedom. What’s next, a limit on the size of hot dogs and cheeseburgers? A restriction on the size of steaks? How about something useful, like a lifetime limit on the number of ridiculous laws and regulations each legislator can propose? I’ll bet a lot of people would support that one!
—Frank Cania, CaniaHR LLC
Health education and health legislation go hand in hand. The legal ban on smoking was accompanied by an industry-funded, aggressive health education program, and it was reasonably effective. This soda pop size ban stands alone and is likely to be both ridiculed and ineffective.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
What’s next, a ban on chocolate? While I agree that we have an obesity problem, limiting individual choice isn’t the answer. How about more education to help people make better choices (like calorie postings), or lower prices for smaller sizes? People need to take personal responsibility for their health. It should not be mandated by Big Brother.
—R. Canley, Fairport
U.S. health care costs are two times higher per person than any other country in the world. One factor is personal choices/behavior. Regulations should go with education and awareness of alternatives that are healthier and less costly.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results
While I agree that sugary drinks are not healthy and should not be a regular part of a sound diet, I think having the government regulate them is going a bit too far. In contrast, the smoking ban protects non-smokers from secondhand smoke, while the trans fat ban protects customers from this potentially hidden danger, and the calorie counts allow customers to see the information and make their own educated decision.
There seems to be a large and growing body of evidence that sugar contributes directly to cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Inasmuch as the government is spending more and more on health care, I think a comprehensive tax on all the various forms of sugar makes sense. But I think this would be better administrated at the wholesale level where sugar producers sell to food processors and distributors.
New York City and particularly its mayor are afraid to be out of the limelight. (Bloomberg) may be auditioning for Sen. (Chuck) Schumer’s job. Maybe the two of them can team up and ban clothing that exceeds a certain size and require all “those” people to switch to togas, or maybe they can be taxed for taking up too much space on the planet! Leave these folks alone. There are a lot of reasons for folks to be overweight. This is another cruel effort to impose the will of some liberal politicians to try to control the willpower of those they deem too ignorant to help themselves.
Although I may personally agree with the premise behind some of these regulations, I am totally against government telling us what is “best for us.” We are supposed to be free Americans, and these kinds of regulations chip away at our freedoms. Once this kind of regulation begins, where do you draw the line?
It is extremely important that we ban large sugary drinks. We banned smoking in public places because we know it is a health hazard, and the smoking addicts are unable to control themselves, so it was necessary to protect the rest of us. We banned artificial trans fats as most of us don’t know what they are or what they are in. To require restaurants to post calorie counts is a great thing because it gives us more information in order to make our own decisions. However, we need to ban large sugary drinks because we are just too stupid to know a large from a small. We had no idea that we got fat from these things. Why, I know myself that one day I just woke up and was fat. I had no idea it was from large sugary drinks. I’m glad that they don’t ban small sugary drinks, so I can still buy two of them and I won’t get fat. Just think how healthy I will be with the government looking out for me. I’ve also taken control of my diet. I no longer eat those cream-filled doughnuts (which should also be banned) and have shifted my eating habits to the ones with the holes in the center. There is far less fat in an air hole than a serving of cream. Hey, do you think they should put shorter tines on the forks so they hold less fatty foods? Or maybe serve the drinks with straws that have holes in them? The energy expended trying to suck sugar out of them would offset the caloric intake! Call me if you want more helpful hints.
I’m for voluntary measures to enhance information to the consumer. I am against the arbitrary rules that control or prohibit free choice. All this action on drink size will do is to promote the two-for-one gimmicks that anyone but the brainless marketers (has) already thought of to circumvent the Bloomberg stupidity. How about reversing the use of ethanol in gasoline? It has finally been proven not to be a green solution.
—Dennis Kiriazides, retired
“Bloomy” needs to take care of the problems in New York City and stop coming up with these waste-of-time ideas. On second thought, let's make New York City the 51st state.
—Jim Duke, Victor
I also think it is time to look at the unhealthy use of high fructose corn syrup.
—Millie Kleinstuber, Bryant & Stratton College
Give me the information and let me decide.
This can only help to educate those who grew up without thought to what is healthy and what is not. Clearly sugar is a HUGE issue with our health and the general population does not see it that way yet.
—Dawn VanDamme, NimbleUser
No salt on tables, no sugary drinks, requiring health care what is next? The consumer should make the choice NOT the government. The ban on restaurant smoking I agree with, as it affects others who maybe have not made the choice to smoke, but concurrently it has not banned it; if you choose to smoke, so be it, should affect others, calorie information is just that, information to make a choice. These mandates take away your choice. Just another signal we are out of control with politicians and government. They should simply focus on the economy, our national safety and get out of the way otherwise.
—David J. Topian, Westminster Real Estate Advisors
I wish the government would stay out of our daily lives! Mayor Bloomberg can ban the Big Gulp but celebrate national donut day—how does that work? It's all about control. November can't come fast enough.
Time for the populace to take charge of their own destiny—and have them pay for their own choices!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
People have the choice to buy what they (want). I would encourage New York to take soda off the food benefits list, thus New York State taxpayers don't foot the bill for soda pop.
It does no good to try and legislate against stupidity. People are very much inclined to continue doing the same dumb things they have habitually done. Some may have been taught by their parents who may not have cared enough. Others don't apparently care enough about themselves to moderate themselves. How do you think prohibition on sugar and high fructose corn syrup would go over? Some people wouldn't care. But many parents would cry because they wouldn't be able to get their kids to eat anything. Habits—even bad ones like obesity—start at home.
—Paul Conaway, Lockheed Martin
This is a tough question. Enforcement will be difficult. A better solution would be to tax larger sugary drinks, based upon the level of sugar. The law requires people to wear their seat belts, which we pretty much accept. Although there was an item in the news about how many tickets were issued for non-compliance. Same goes with distracted driving. Unhealthy habits cost everyone in increased health care cost and lost productivity. The best way to manage this issue is to let people make their own decisions, but make them pay for the decision with a tax to help fund health care.
Providing more information to consumers (posting calorie counts) = Good. Restricting people from infringing on others' personal air space (smoking ban) = Good. Not allowing people to make informed decisions for themselves, or giving them easy loopholes (buy more soda!) = Bad.
Sugar is the new cocaine.
—Bob Loeb, Robert Loeb Communications
Many thin and healthy people drink large soft drinks and many fat or unhealthy people do not. People should be at liberty to make their own choices on what is best for them—as long as it does not impact others in their vicinity—as smoking does.
—Ann Tracy, Pittsford
From October 2009 to October 2010, I lost over 100 pounds through a combination of diet and exercise. It's appalling how many calories are mindlessly consumed in beverages. It's equally annoying to try to find low-calorie or no-calorie options, particularly in convenience stores and restaurants. One diet soda option compared to six or more sugary selections is ridiculous. While I don't necessarily support government setting rules about what I can and cannot have, I do support a move that forces companies to look at the products they are providing and retailers to consider expanding the selection with more no-calorie beverage options. (It shouldn't be this hard to find a Diet Cherry Dr Pepper.)
Ideally they would have done it themselves but—the lure of money tends to overrule “the right thing” for businesses. Sadly.
I think our forefathers must be spinning in their collective graves at the realization that we have become a “nanny” state!
—Peter Short, J.J. Short Associates, Inc.
The idea that we even have to ask this question is insulting—just give me my plastic bubble and insert whatever the state deems I need in through the airlock once a week. I may not enjoy my life , and I likely will not see anything because it will be blacked out inside my bubble to make sure the sun doesn't harm me—but at least I'll make it to 146 years of age!
—Devon Michaels, Chili
Whatever happened to personal responsibility and accountability? If a person wants to purchase a large sugary drink, s/he should have that right. However much I hate smoking, it is still legal to do so. However, I believe that a person's right to smoke ends where my right to breathe starts. Banning smoking in workplaces, restaurants and public buildings is the right thing to do. If you want to smoke in your own home or car, that's your choice.
I was in favor of Obama's suggested extra tax on sugary drinks. While I don't think we should be over-regulated, this makes sense as a measure to encourage people to be healthier. Non-diet soda is calorie-laden, but has no nutritional value whatsoever. A tax on such items does not mean people can't purchase them, but it means they will pay a premium if they choose to do so. The U.S. continues to be a nation with many obese people and the associated health problems that go along with our unhealthy lifestyle. We should not be promoting items that contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle and making it easier for people to get them.
Surely toilet paper usage regulation won't be far behind.
Ban smoking in restaurants = good idea; banning in parks = bad idea. We do not need the government to become our nanny. Whatever we do seems to require the government. Maybe we should take a hard look at what foods are subsidized by the U.S. government. They are the ones who paid for this crap in the first place. I don't see them supporting the healthy foods at all. French fries under a $1, oranges over $2 a pound.
We should be able to make our own choices—as long as the product is labeled it should be our choice. The next thing will be what? Maybe who I talk to … who I can marry?
The "good idea"/"bad idea" should be based on freedom of choice. The ban on smoking is good because secondhand smoke is harmful, and those whom it affects don't have a choice about whether or not to inhale it. A similar argument could be applied to trans fat. Posting a calorie count is good because it gives people information that would be otherwise difficult to obtain. Information should be given to people, but what they do with it is up to them. Once they have the information, natural selection takes over.
—Donald A. Dinero, TWI Learning Partnership
Petty government tyranny is endless. Thought experiment: Mayor Bloomberg (and Gov. Cuomo) wants to remove the penalty for having small amounts of marijuana in your possession. So what happens if you're caught by the cops with a few grams of weed and 20 ounces of Coke?
—Peter Durant, Nixon Peabody LLP
We are in a major health crisis in the U.S. If people were drinking poison, would we prohibit it? Yes. It's called using common sense. This is no different. Corporate America does not care about the health and wellbeing of the citizens. It is the elected government's responsibility to protect and defend all citizens from harm. It's too bad that business doesn't have the same objective. Unfortunately, for a majority of businesses, it is all about money, not a balance of humanity and profits.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
Should we ban 1.5 ml bottles of wine and just provide .75 ml? Maybe smaller sized bags of chips and no more footlongs? How ridiculous.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Enough with the nanny state—what happened to personal responsibility? The only one of these bans that I favor is on smoking, because it directly affects other people.
—Karen Zilora, Creative Scanning Solutions Inc.
It is probably a bad idea, but it is not as clear cut as one may just jump to think. Yes, the government has no business being our nanny, but yes, the government has a place in protecting us. Yes, bathtubs full of empty calories hurt us and ultimately are a cost to taxpayers and our own families. We don't complain when government prevents people from jumping off buildings. We don't complain when government legislates against drinking and driving. We don't complain when government mandates that small children be in protected car seats or that everyone wear a seat belt. The only differences are certainty and the speed of the consequences. The real problem is that government cannot legislate common sense.
Read Professor Brian Wansink's book “Mindless Eating” to see the great effect portion size has on eating. Larger portions cause people to eat more. We the taxpayers pay in higher costs of health care, life insurance, etc. As Bloomberg says, they can go back for a second drink. Controlling smoking (affects others, as well as yourself) and trans fats makes sense also, same reasons. Those are fairly easy controls for a restaurant to make; they make a single change to operations. Listing calorie counts is helpful to the consumer, does make people choose the smaller item, but only for large chain restaurants with standard menus. Very big burden for small restaurants.
Government's role in such matters should be through education, not limiting personal freedoms.
—Duane Piede, North Coast Energy Associates
The government should not function as a nanny. It should provide for the dissemination of health information for consumers to consider in making food and beverage choices. It is a free country, so people should be allowed to make their own unhealthy choices even though it isn't wise. However, making unhealthy choices should not be allowed to affect surrounding people which is why banning smoking in public buildings and restaurants is a good idea.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield
Bad idea. I don’t support mandatory mini-sizing of portions or people, but what I am actually more concerned about is the rest of the upcoming “behave yourself or else” legislation in NYC: the mandatory calisthenics when waiting for a traffic light to change (except in rainy weather), the required public weigh-in every quarter with an obligation to show up at a supervised gym 3 times a week if more than 20 pounds overweight (although the cost will be borne by everyone else as a health insurance premium), surprise home inspection visits of all parents of overweight children; the sugar and fat rationing cards that have to be presented whenever food is purchased (restaurants, supermarkets, etc., with seizure of the card when over the limit), and the TV/computer “sit-time meter,” which must be uploaded weekly to the “Calories Board” to adjust the sugar and fat ration for the following month. Since New York City seems bent on parenting the populace, I guess it is best to buy stock in health clubs, ration card printers, and sit-time meter companies and move someplace else where adults are allowed to be adults.
—Diane C. Harris, president, Hypotenuse Enterprises Inc.
Personally I don't like the government telling me what to do, however, poor decisions by individuals cost me the taxpayer real dollars (e.g.; health care cost). If everyone paid for his/her own health care, I could care less what they drank, ate or smoked. Take seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, the Libertarian in me says, "It's none of the governments business" whether or not I fasten my seatbelt or wear a helmet. The pragmatist in me says, “Why should my tax dollars pay for those who don't pay for his/her own health care expenses." This time, the pragmatist wins.
This nanny state stuff has got to stop. If we don't resist it, it will keep growing, taking away more and more of our personal liberties. Even though these nanny-rules may seem like a minor issue in and of itself, over time they build up.
—Lew Pulvino, LJP Associates
Cigarettes and other smoke-type products should definitely be banned, and tobacco companies producing non-medicinal or healthy products should be fined.
Banning items such as food-stuffs is hogwash—the only persons who care are nannies and health freaks. Banning smoking in restaurants (and bars) should be the responsibility of the owner, not the government. If people do not like eating or drinking around smokers, either the owners will have a smoking section or ban smoking in their establishments. Again, it is not the job of government to watch over our health or habits; let the market and/or the owners decide what to do. As far as parks go, there is perhaps the only instance where government can have a legitimate say in what goes on in the parks. We the people are the government, and if our elected officials vote to ban smoking in parks then they (hopefully) are following the wishes of their constituents. Every regulation and ban reduces our freedom and liberty. If people do not like or if they approve, they must let it be known at the ballot box.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party, Canandaigua
This has to be one of the dumbest ideas in a long time. I understand and support the intention—to help people maintain a healthy weight, prevent diabetes, etc. —but this is not only an overstepping by government (albeit local) into private affairs, but also an ineffective vehicle to achieve the stated goals. Simple side-step: buy one get, one on 16 ounce drinks. It is an added inconvenience with no benefit; the epitome of bad policy. Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that a 42 ounce soda is not a reasonable one-person beverage, and the fact that people drink them is a large part of the epidemic of obesity that is driving the abysmal performance of our health care dollars in terms of health status. But bad policy is no way to overcome bad behavior, no matter how good it may make us feel to be protecting people from themselves (or from what we presume are greedy soda company executives bent on profits at the expense of poor people's lives). What’s next, no steak larger than 4 ounces? No bacon on cheeseburgers? No all-you-can-eat buffets? No donuts by the dozen? Yes, that might be a little hyperbole, but is it really? A couple weeks ago I would have thought the same about no 16-plus ounce sodas. Supporters say this is about education. If that is the case, then launch an education program. This seems a bit more like control and another class warfare attack on some nameless greed-motivated industry elite.
—Jim Garnham, Penfield
Freedom of choice is fundamental to being an American and is fundamental to the Constitution of the United States. We are free to make smart or dumb choices as individuals. We are promised by our Constitution freedom of equal opportunity but not of equal outcome.
—Dave Rusin, East Rochester
6/8/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.