Sunday, February 10, 2013

New York City Soda Ban is a Hard Swallow

New Yorkers are headed toward leaner times.  The New York City Health Board recently approved a ban on large sized soft drinks proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Is Big Government now targeting Big People’s Big Drinks?  Does the government have the right to restrict free choice 0n what we eat or drink?  Does the argument that this is a necessary public policy initiative pass the smell (or taste) test?  Will this edict result in measurable weight loss?  Do we know as fact that weight loss saves health care dollars or do we assume so simply because the conclusion appears logical?
First, the policy is riddled with nonsensical exceptions.  If banning large drinks is right and proper, then why not ban them all, not just certain sizes at certain establishments.  Does it make sense to ban large drinks at movie theaters, but permit continued guzzling at convenience stores and vending machines?  If the product is evil, then shouldn’t any size of these life threatening beverages be poured down the drain?  Does it make sense that unlimited refills of smaller size sodas are permitted?  So far, does the policy seem rational and coherent?
Once the measure takes effect in March, movie patrons can still live dangerously and stay within the law simply by ordering several smaller sizes of the poison potions.  Thirsty customers can outfox the ban by purchasing multiple smaller sodas.  These folks who are carrying 3 or 4 small size drinks, rather than a supersize beverage, could easily spill them placing themselves and other moviegoers at risk of serious injury.  Those who adhere to the letter and spirit of the new policy by purchasing only a single small beverage may not have sufficient liquid to wash down the palm oil coated popcorn.  As a gastroenterologist, I foresee several cases of clogged esophaguses with popcorn gumming up gullets. I think the government will have huge legal exposure on this issue.
Popcorn - An Innocent Victim
Do we think that New Yorkers who are forbidden to purchase large size drinks at certain locales will seek out celery stalks and carrot sticks? 
Folks who try hard to lose weight have a hard time doing so.  Folks under the ban won’t get slimmer just because the government restricts one food class at a certain size at some locations. 
Why stop at soda?  If pop is the enemy, then shouldn’t ice cream, candy, cake, doughnuts and fried foods be prohibited?  I am sure there are those who would support a government mandated menu that we would all be forced to swallow.  For these do gooders, government knows best.
Explain to me please why banning soda is necessary public policy while liquor and cigarettes are legal in any quantity.
I want to drink what I choose.  But I'm not drinking the Kool Aid.


Anonymous said...

You have to eat 4 Big Macs to equal the fat content of a large bucket of buttered popcorn. Will butter be the next thing to go? What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions and the consequences???

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Personal responsibility? For my own knowledge, what planet do you inhabit?

Matthew said...

I think increasing calorie content awareness and more education about nutrition may do more than this soft drink ban. What a waste of time and money!!!

Anonymous said...

Earth. Pass the popcorn.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be the lone dissenter so far, so here goes.

By your own admission in your post about probiotics, nutrition is not one of your areas of expertise, calling it a 'soft subject' that was not included as part of your medical training. You then go on to not-so-thinly imply that wellness and preventive medicine are little more than New Age silliness, on par with incense and crystals. And now, on your rant about Big Gub'mint Soda Usurpation you highlight the myriad evils of government intervention into such matters as diet.

Perhaps if people like you, who are the subject matter experts in the structure and function of human digestion, took nutrition more seriously there would be no need for admittedly ham-handed government policies aimed at trying to do SOMETHING about the epidemic of adult AND childhood obesity.

Perhaps if people like you were more interested in the prevention of diet-related disease, instead of profiting handsomely from it, the information vacuum would not need to be filled by expensive, intrusive, and, usually, ineffective public policy mandates.

I don't at all disagree that much of the nutrition and wellness products industry is nothing more than junk science and slick marketing. But I suspect that your obvious disdain for non-FDA sanctioned remedies has less to do with a preference for the scientific method, and more to do with a generalized fear that your professions five-figure cash cows (e.g. colonoscopies) might one day be rendered obsolete by smaller portions, more nutrition education, and, quite possibly, a more effective digestive system courtesy of a little, round capsule.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

To the lone dissenter above: Why remain anonymous? I agree with much of your comment but you are dead wrong that my views can be explained by a fear that my income might be threatened by any medical advance. If you take some time to read through other posts on this blog, particularly in the Ethics Quality section, you might realize that this gratuitious sentiment is misplaced. Nevertheless, I appreciate your view and thank you for commenting.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Looks like one guy didn't drink the soda ban Kool Aid!

NYC Body said...

Soda has nothing to do with people getting obese in NYC or Worldwide. There many countries where soda is being sold and consumed every freken day and they do not consider soda to be the culprit of their obese population. What about Deserts served after dinner?...that's contain more sugar than soda...what about all the candy sold/used in Halloween? What about the crappy sugary treats your companies have at corporate for all the employees that work for you at Bloomberg? What about ice tea, ice cream, etc...etc...etc. ?.....dear Mr. Bloomberg, what really make people obese is the Saturated Fat amount on products that we consumed every day....I understand that Soda is not healthy, but don't just use it as the culprit that make people in NYC fat.

- James

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

@NYC Body - well said. Big Gulp is not the enemy. Poor Bloomberg just took another hit on 'stop and frisk' yesterday.

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