New York City defends 'supersize' drink ban

2012-06-08 11:47

Washington - New York City's top health official shot back on Thursday at critics who have blasted the city's plan to limit the sale of oversized sugary drinks such as cooldrink, calling beverage industry opposition ridiculous.

The proposed ban, which caps most sugar-sweetened beverages at 16 ounces (about half a litre) and carries a $200 fine for vendors that do not comply, met immediate backlash from beverage companies and others who argue it is government overreach, but was lauded by public health experts.

"It's not saying 'no' to people. It's saying, 'Are you sure? Do you really want that?'" Thomas Farley, New York City's health commissioner, said. "It's sending people a message while giving people the freedom to drink as much as they want."

Speaking at a conference in Washington aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary beverages, Farley said drink makers were following the same playbook as tobacco companies that push back against government action aimed at protecting consumers from harmful products.

Coca-Cola Co and McDonald's Corp along with beverage industry groups have said consumers should be able to make their own drink choices and that sodas are not to blame for the nation's soaring obesity rates.

The industry has launched a wave of ads in response to New York's plan, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week.

Little support

Farley said sugary drink consumption may just be part of the US obesity epidemic but that such products were the largest single source of sugar in the diet and had a major impact on health. Reducing obesity by just 10% in New York City would save about 500 lives a year, he added.

"It's ridiculous to say we shouldn't try something that's only going to solve a portion of the problem," he said at the event, which was sponsored by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a group that has long advocated against junk food.

American Beverage Association spokesperson Karen Hanretty, in a statement, defended the industry's response and said there was little support for Bloomberg's proposal. Many people think the plan "has gone too far with a proposal that will do nothing to reduce the serious problem of obesity in America", she said.

The city's cup-size ban will be submitted on Tuesday to the New York City Board of Health, which will vote on it after a three-month comment period. If approved by the board, the ban would take effect early next year.

Embraced by experts

The beverage industry is expected to spend large amounts of money to fight it. Legal analysts have said drink makers face an uphill battle in the courts if they pursue legal challenges to block the effort.

"There are so many examples where states impose standards on consumer products sold within their borders," Michelle Mello, a Harvard University professor of law and public health, said on Monday. "It seems hard to believe that this would be singled out as unreasonable by a court."

Public health experts have embraced Bloomberg's plan and see it as an approach that could be applied in communities across the country.

Farley and other health advocates at the conference said they were confident that people over time would embrace smaller cup sizes as the right thing to do just as they eventually came around to bans on smoking in public places.

"If we can do that for .... tobacco, we can certainly do that for obesity as well," Farley said.

Part of the problem

Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said targeting sugar-sweetened beverages made sense because they offered empty calories with no nutritional value.

Another US mayor, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, told the conference he had seen some progress from drink makers selling smaller sizes and low-calorie or no-calorie products, but they were not owning up so far to their role in the nation's weight struggle.

"The industry needs to at least acknowledge that they are part of the problem," he said.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-06-08 11:59

    Nanny ,nanny, nanny..... teaming up with the medical nazi's . What about the guy that wants a litre cola (:))? They just going to buy whatever quantity of smaller servings . Stupidest waste of time. Try convince the public that being obese is not ok , rather than telling them it is and then banning big servings. Or how about a equally ridiculous law of banning obese people from fast food restaurants so the other peoples rights aren't infringed. Where does it end , living by its very nature is bad for your health so what to do ,ban people from living ? mass executions for the sake of their health?

  • John - 2012-06-08 12:23

    I have found that making the product packaging smaller makes me consume more. I find the smaller package does not fulfill my appetite so I have another one so I end up consuming 1.5 times the amount of choc/biscuit/beer than I would have if the packaging was a bit bigger.

      boltonbarry - 2012-06-08 12:37

      Sorry John not to be personal but you need to add the words self control to your sentence then it won't be necessary to consume so much. Just a thought

      John - 2012-06-08 13:08

      I have plenty of will power. It is the won't power that I lack!

  • ludlowdj - 2012-06-08 12:25

    legislating behavior, next they will enforce mind control as well.

  • Garth - 2012-06-08 12:28

    Of course.. Because clearly we too stupid to think for ourselves.. Thanks big brother

      boltonbarry - 2012-06-08 12:38

      If you look at the American obesity figures then yes. They are to ignorant (stoopid) to think for themselves

      arthur.hugh - 2012-06-08 12:54

      Agree with Garth - if someone is "too stupid" to control their intake it's their problem and their choice, when we allow governments to decide how much of a good thing we can have it becomes dangerously close to being a dictatorship.

      gregory.jurgens - 2012-06-08 12:59

      They interfering with evolution. Only the strongest survive. Let the dumb asses kill themselves.

      Vaughan - 2012-06-08 13:11

      You hit the nail on the head, the average American is too stupid to think for themselves.

      Malcolm - 2012-06-08 13:37

      Yes Vaughan, compared to South Africans who are sooo much smarter...

      arthur.hugh - 2012-06-08 15:10

      Malcolm - we might not be "smarter" but most of us seem to be "healthier" hehe ;-)

      Malcolm - 2012-06-08 19:06

      @Hugh_Influence - We ourselves have an over 50% obesity rate and are really not trailing America by that far. (And likely only doing so at all because half our population can't afford food) So we are ourselves really no better and have no room to talk, it's amazing how people buy into stereotypes, how many people who talk about fat Americans are actually fat themselves I wonder? Probably only know about fat Americans because they base everything off the TV that they watch too much.

  • gregory.jurgens - 2012-06-08 12:56

    Fatty just gonna but two sodas to with his super size burger.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-06-08 12:59

      Exactly, it doesn't solve anything. Waste of time and resources (seems to be the only thing governments are good at).

  • Talana - 2012-06-08 13:12

    is anybody forcing the normal people to drink, or eat it? its a choice

  • Hermann - 2012-06-08 13:15

    Is it just me or are those cup frikken huge!!! How can you consume so much sugar in just one drink.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-06-08 13:23

      In industrial psychology it's called "conditioning". Slowly make the cups bigger over time until they adapt, and eventually demand bigger ones, then market it as more value for your money. Same concept can be done in reverse, for example crisps - keep the bag the same size, lower the grams within - people will psychologically adapt to paying more for less over time, without making a conscious effort to realise they are being duped. Look at the psychology of Detol adverts for example - "Be 100% sure" but they always leave ONE germ in the graphic, and flash a small "kills 99% of germs". Fact - 1% is huge - all it takes is one micro organism to get past Dettol and you're sick... so 99% doesn't cut it, and you can't be 100% sure, now can you? People really should wake up...

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-08 13:31

    Sugar drinks are the single biggest contributor to obesity and diabetes in the US. They are chemically addictive too. Like cigarettes, steps must be taken to make it more difficult for people to use them. Taxes is the answer. These were highly effective in reducing the use of cigarettes. They will make it more difficult for people to drink them, and easier to drink other healthier items.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-06-08 14:37

      Is it the drink thats the problem or the person? Is it the cola or the 15 packets curly fries, 25 doughnuts , 14 chocolate slabs ,etc .. ect. ..ect. Cigarettes are different because of the effect on others via second hand smoke and its highly addictive qualities , no cola has the addictive qualities of cigarettes.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-06-08 14:55

      Nicotine isn't actually that addictive and can be flushed from the system quite quickly - it's mostly psychological dependency triggered by the reward and pleasure systems in the brain. Neuroscientists did a study on the effects of anti-smoking campaigns on smokers and as soon as they saw burned out lungs etc their pleasure / reward zones lit up light christmas trees. Same can be applied to junk food and beverages, the high sugar content gives them a small "high" triggering the pleasure zones, and psychologically they become addicted. So in conclusion it's two-fold - the consumer needs to educate and control themselves, and the companies need to be barred from excessive psychological warfare that literally preys on the ill-informed (through advertising, packaging etc etc). Even shop layouts are specifically designed to psychologically induce excitement and trigger reward by association.

  • Thomas - 2012-06-08 13:47

    So what if the vendor downsize the cupsize and then offer two drinks with a burger or meal? This is just a stupid law and waste of time, they will find a way to bypass the system.

  • Stuart - 2012-06-08 13:53

    The land of the free is now moving towards discriminatory practices which will make the nazis, apartheid, etc. look very basic! Surely freedom of choice means you can consume as much cola as you decide if you are of age or have been authorised by your parents?

      arthur.hugh - 2012-06-08 15:00

      Yup but to be fair, stricter labeling laws should be introduced so that consumers can know exactly what they're eating or drinking. Cocacola & Pepsi recently had to change their recipes to avoid putting a label saying "May cause cancer" on their products, after it was discovered that 4-methylimidazole (a highly toxic carcinogen) was found in high doses in both beverages (it was used to give them that caramel brown colour). Now - imagine how many other chemicals are in millions of other products...

  • Themba - 2012-06-08 14:29

    Its the ANC government

  • kobus.oelofse.3 - 2012-06-08 21:03

    Lol fat people on a roll ....... :D on a serious note, there are tons of factors that come into play for obisity: like depression, eating dissorders, genes in the body.... i dont have anything against larger sized people since some of them can be really good people and sometimes even hot :P but really, why on earth would you eat and drink yourself to such a point that you cant get up ? The earth was made for us to move around on and explore !!

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