Today was supposed to be the start of New York City’s ban on large sugary drinks. The regulation, the brainchild of Mayor Bloomberg, required that any food service business that was regulated by the NYC Department of Health stop selling sugary drinks in servings that are greater than 16 ounces. I did a prior blog post polling you guys to see what you thought and personally was pretty thrilled when I heard that the regulation had been passed and was going to take effect today.
Unfortunately, a NY State Supreme Court judge invalidated the regulation yesterday, claiming that it was “arbitrary and capricious”. As a health/fitness enthusiast AND an attorney, I was pretty dismayed at this outcome. Here’s why I think government should regulate sugar:
1. The health of every individual is a PUBLIC issue.
There is a sense out there that people should be allowed to eat and drink whatever they want. I’ve heard arguments that for the government to step in and regulate what people eat/drink is a violation of people’s freedom and privacy. What’s missing from the discussion about the regulation of sugar is the ways in which over-consumption of sugary foods on an individual level impact the lives of others- personally (parents-children-families-communities) and economically (healthcare costs, insurance). Obesity in the United States has become a serious public health concern- it has left our homes and affects the insurance programs our jobs offer and the lives of children in our schools. Obesity is a public concern, not just a private set of choices.
2. Creating obstacles to sugar isn’t banning sugar, it’s creating awareness.
Nothing about the NYC soda regulation is an actual “ban” on what you can drink. If someone still wants to drink a serving of soda the size of a Big Gulp, they can just order two of the smaller sizes. It’s my belief that a lot of people drink large amounts of soda without truly thinking about what they are consuming. Also, many sugary drinks are formulated to make you crave more, so if you have a 32oz. drink sitting in front of you, you aren’t going to be as thoughtful about whether you really need to be drinking that much soda. I’ve blogged already about portion control and serving size which are key components to a healthy diet- the large serving size and large sugar content of soft drinks is a dangerous combination that has to be acknowledged. Requiring someone to buy two servings instead of one will raise their eating awareness and perhaps (for some people) change their eating/drinking habits.
3. Sugar is not the enemy, but concentrated sugar served in excess is.
As I mentioned in my previous post on sugar, sugar can come from a lot of different healthy sources. Fruit, for example, has a lot of sugar in it. If you really want a treat, try eating some ice cold grapes- they are yummy & PACKED with fructose! But there’s a fundamental difference between the sugar that you find in fruits & vegetables and the sugar that you find in a large Mountain Dew. The sugar in a lot of these carbonated drinks is highly concentrated simple sugar, the kind that will spike your blood glucose levels, reduce your insulin response over time (leading to Type 2 diabetes) and almost immediately get stored in your body as fat. It’s not good for us and, no matter what “free market” principles are thrown my way, I will always advocate against the sale of it. Regulations like the one proposed by Mayor Bloomberg are a step in the right direction of rooting out what’s become a toxic ingredient in the American diet. -CFC
**What say you? Do you think that government should regulate the sale of sugary drinks? Or do you think such regulation creates a “nanny state”?**