Yesterday, New York City's Board of Health approved a law that prevents Health Department-regulated food establishments from selling portions of sodas or other sugary drinks over 16 ounces. Is this a much needed nudge for a country that has a 35% obesity rate? Or misdirected tyranny? A learned discussion ensues:
Derek: I feel like a Republican saying this, but the government should not tell us what we can and cannot buy if it's already legal and not part of the drug / alcohol / guns category. If I want to buy a 30-gallon drum of soda, damnit, I want a DRUM!
Chris: Oh, but they already DO regulate your life Derek. Remember how you have no idea what is in your bag of Funyuns? Oh wait, you can just turn the bag around and see what ingredients are in its chemical dust. And all those paint chips you ate as a kid? Nowadays you have to really look for those tasty, lead-poisoning morsels. This law is just another way the gov'ment is sensibly guiding our fat, jaundiced hands.
Derek: Yes, I concur, but they should start at the source, not the consumer. Maybe I'm jaded, or too used to Bloomberg's business-first attitude to not have a knee-jerk reaction, but this all feels like a veiled attempt to get people to spend more on the same amount. As the old cliche goes, if you want to change people's attitude, hit them in their wallet. You don't see fat people just walking to the bodega and buying a 2 liter instead?
Chris: What do you mean start at the source? The consumer IS the source. All these companies can say, “We only sell what people want.” And if people don't want giant tubs of fructose anymore because it's either annoying to carry an extra soda with your Triple Cheddar Colon Ache or they realize they don't NEED it, they won't sell them anymore.
Derek: That's my point. Diet soda is not part of the ban if it's under a certain size, but of course, they won't carry those sizes anymore, so you won't even be able to get huge diet sodas. So if they want to ban it, they should tell the soda companies they can't make a soft drink over xxx calories unless it comes with a warning, or is banned at the source. It should be put onto the giant corporations making million$$ off of our fat asses, not the local businesses and consumers.
Chris: Well, I believe that stores will continue to sell large diet sodas because they want the revenue (and if people who would normally drink regular soda switch to diet, all the better—saccharine substitute cancer arguments nonwithstanding). But remember, this law won't BAN anyone from drinking more than 16 ounces of soda in one sitting: it'll just make it more annoying to do so. The law is admittedly half-assed & convoluted, but we don't need tyrannical overcorrection, just a nudge in the right direction.
Derek: But don't you feel that this is tyrannical overcorrection? Like the soda industry is being labeled a scapegoat in this instance? I mean, if they really want to fight obesity, namely, obesity in poor neighborhoods, why not do what I always think we should do—provide education and healthcare? We could eliminate 50% of the country's social programs if we offered high-quality healthcare and education to everyone. I mean, alcoholism runs rampant in poor neighborhoods, but there's not a limit on the number of liquor stores. Lotto locations and ads are specifically targeted for poor neighborhoods. Same goes for McDonalds and fast food places, so if that's ok, then so should the size of my soda be ok.
Teach our children well, Chris. Teach them, not punish them!
Chris: Should we really be concerned about “scapegoating” a $278 billion industry? And education and healthcare cost money—a lot of money. NYC's public schools are so broke they're cutting PE. As for alcoholism or cigarettes (a study released yesterday shows that low-income smoking New Yorkers spend 1/4 of their income on cigarettes), those things are taxed into oblivion, but they're also physically addictive! People bitch and moan (myself included) about Bloomberg being a “nanny,” but, as someone said earlier this week, maybe that's exactly what we need: someone to tell our fat asses to chill out on the Mountain Dew.
Derek: THE SCHOOLS ARE BROKE BECAUSE OF BLOOMBERG! He's diverting money away from schools unlike any mayor before him. There needed to be a court injunction to stop him from closing “underperforming” schools, which happen to be in mostly poor neighborhoods. Again, I'm not implying that less fatty foods aren't good for you, but really, cutting out the big gulp to make up for the fact he's creating a stupider, more dependent community doesn't do it for me.
And of course the stadiums are on board, and movie theaters, where it already costs $8 for a soda so now instead of $8 for 24oz, i'm going to be buying an $8 liter. Fuck Bloomberg. Fuck him right in his ass
Chris: I see this debate is degenerating (maybe because you need some caffeine? Here, have a Diet Coke). Look, I'm no Bloomberg booster, but his food (and smoking) regulations have a proven track record. Tens of thousands of lives have been saved from the smoking ban, the trans fat ban and mandatory calorie displays have shaved countless pounds from our frames, and dig this: drinking a 16 oz soda a day (as Bronx residents do) as opposed to a 20 oz soda, saves 14,600 calories a year alone.
Unlike the smoking ban (as everyone knows, smoking adds ambiance and cool), do you really see any New Yorkers saying in three years, “Man, I miss those days where I could drink an extra 4 oz of Fanta in one sitting?” Sorry, “ONE HANDFUL.”
Derek: Well, I guess I have no choice, do I? So while you're out there sucking the Bloomberg teet, I'm going to go and get my ol' 7-11 64oz Big Gulp, fill it with gingerale and walk in front of every cop manning a subway bag search station trying to get arrested to fight for my first amendment soda-drinking rights.
Chris: Big Gulp's are excluded from the law, Derek. You'll be sipping those until I pry them out of your liver-spotted fingers.