3 Reasons Why Government Should Regulate Sugar (CFC Opinion)

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Keep Fighting the Good Fight Mike!

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:

sugary soda and foods

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”?**


About ChicFitChef

My "deserted island" checklist: a BCBG dress, a healthy & diabetic-friendly meal and a few workout DVDs. ;-)
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14 Responses to 3 Reasons Why Government Should Regulate Sugar (CFC Opinion)

  1. Lauren says:

    IMO, it is stupid that this ban does not include 40 ounce beers as well? It’s somehow okay to drink that much alcohol in one sitting?

  2. I was not really a fan of the NY ban as it doesn’t solve much. If you are going to enforce serving sizes, why not do it for the giant pasta plates people gulp down for lunch? Also, if people want their sugary soda, they would go to 7-Eleven and mostly the people that are already aware of the health consequences would stop at their 16 oz glass. If you want to ban something, ban the amount of fructose/sugar added to the sodas at the manufacturing level. A lot of food establishments now have calories posted (albeit some are wrong) so obviously the people are not making the healthy choice. Maybe we need other measures to scare people into eating healthier since the risks of obesity are obviously not doing the trick which is pretty shocking to me!

  3. SKS says:

    So glad that there are others in favor of this ban, too! There has been so much anti-soda-ban outrage from unexpected sources. I agree, it’s not a be-all, end-all, and clearly it could have been more comprehensive, but it’s a START! And it’s a Bloomberg kind of start, pragmatic to the core. <ore comprehensive likely would have added as many obstacles as it would have solved. I hope Bloomberg & Co. don't give up on our health.

  4. Zenith says:

    I have mixed feeling about this one. Will regulations like this one create a slippery slope of slowly infringing on people’s rights? If so, I would not agree to such regulations.
    On the other hand, our rights are already being interfered with by the escalating cost of health insurance premiums in an attempt to offset the rising cost of health care. This rise in cost, in part is due to rising health related issues associated with obesity.

    If I choose to take care of my health, avoid extreme eating ( and anything else) which puts one at higher risk for preventable conditions, why should I have to bear the rising cost of health care for people who choose to have that Big Gulp (and a whole lot of other bad stuff) on a regular basis.
    It is interesting that when ask Big Gulpers what society should do about the rights of ALL citizens when it comes to health care costs, you either hear crickets or angry obfuscation.

    • ChicFitChef says:

      I hear you Zenith, especially on the last sentence of your comment! The fact of the matter is that obesity is effecting the quality and cost of healthcare for EVERYONE (not just the obese). I just don’t think that this issue is truly 100% private- at least not anymore, given the gravity of the obesity problem in the U.S.

      • Zenith says:

        Yes! I totally agree! And to equate this to your comment below, the incurred increase in health care cost on society is the ‘ fist being allowed to actually HIT the face’ without repercussion (or even discussion) thus far. As I stated before, I find it interesting and a bit disingenuous that people who are so adamantly opposed to the sugary drink ban for fear of how it will affect other rights in the future are completely silent on how we all of our rights are already being negatively impacted by healthcare costs.

  5. I respectfully disagree with your argument. Although the mayor viewed the prohibition as a way to fight the city’s growing obesity epidemic, what he failed to realize is that his own dictatorial urges do not and will not overrule each citizen’s ability and right to decide for themselves. Let’s face it—excess sugar IS a threat to wellbeing and no person in their right mind should consume soda or any other sugary drink at all if they have the slightest concern over their health. Unnatural, processed sugar IS the enemy, because excess sugar triggers the release of insulin, which is the EXACT biochemical trigger that causes fat cells to “feed”, increase in size and make us all fatter (the process all works by the upregulation of LPL or Lipoprotein Lipase). The intent behind the ban may be honorable, but we are all adults equipped with the unalienable right to our own person and property. Only we get to decide what we do with ourselves, regardless if that choice is good or bad. If John Q. Public chooses to live an immoral life, that is purely a PRIVATE issue, just in the same way if he chooses to smoke all day, steal, cheat, drink and do drugs. Some individuals may desire to assume responsibility for his immorality or lack of responsibility, but that burden should remain isolated and not imposed on everyone else. Are all of us responsible when he devours a supersized coke and inhales a big mac? And the reverse: when I successfully resuscitate someone in the ER, are praises due society at large?

    If John Doe walks into a store and wishes to buy a 99-ounce soda from the store clerk and the two parties agree on a price, who is the mayor (or anyone else for that matter) to tell either party otherwise? Why should the City have any say in the voluntary contract between two individuals? This ban not only infringes on personal liberty, but it infringes upon capitalism as well. Is the mayor an anti-capitalist? The road to destruction is paved with good indentations, and we should all ask ourselves: If the mayor (or governor, senator, president) thinks something to be “for our own good” and acts unilaterally to legislate his own mandates, what distinguishes him from a complete despot? What else is in store for us all “for our own good?” What if the same mayor told us we should not associate with “those people” because we would then be guilty by association? What if the mayor told us we can’t wear blue shirts past in April because its in the public interest? What if the mayor, in an attempt to “combat crime and gun violence” assumed men who looked a certain way ought to be “stopped and frisked” “for the public good?”

    • ChicFitChef says:

      CHE: But what about when John Q Public’s “private” decision impacts the public? Your right to swing your fists around stops at another person’s nose.

      • My right to physically swing my fists should end at another person’s nose because the backbone of a liberated society is rooted in the principle of non-aggression: prohibiting the use of violence or the threat of violence to force (or prohibit) someone from doing something. Without penalty for those who commit demonstrable harm to others (or themselves) there’s no incentive for behavioral change.

        Society likes to promote the idea of privatizing gains and socializing losses. The problem with the latter philosophy is you begin on a never-ending path of enacting rules and regulations for the public good to the point where the average Joe has the right to do nothing. Let’s take the claim to an extreme to highlight its intrusiveness: banning all potato chips (salt), chocolate (sugar), eggs and red meat (cholesterol), fish (mercury), vegetables (pesticides) and butter (saturated fat). I vote against that reality.

        Here’s something I think we can all (maybe) agree on: banning cigarette smoking within 75 feet of EVERY public place, everywhere. John Doe still maintains the right to smoke, he just can’t do it within range of other people, involuntarily exposing them to the well-established dangers of secondhand smoke. After all smoking related illness is the third leading cause of death in the USA (behind heart disease and cancer) and it’s death toll exceeds that of HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol, MVAs, suicides and murders COMBINED. In this case, truly a public good.

  6. found this article in NYT that is in line with my belief that the biggest impact could be made by forcing the food industry to change their ways. I guess this could be done directly by passing some laws such as limiting the amount of sugar per drink, the percentage of calories from sugar, maximum amount of calories for serving size, packaging products in one serving size only, etc or indirectly by taxing more for candy/soda/snacks, lowering their sales and forcing them to change the ingredients or produce healthier products to stay in the market. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/opinion/sunday/how-to-force-ethics-on-the-food-industry.html?pagewanted=all
    Until then, we can all do our share by convincing/helping our friends to cook more meals at home, encourage them to give up unhealthy habits and be more active. I went from convincing one friend to run the Hot Chocolate 5K, to 4 friends for the Santa Hustle 5K and so far 8 of us have signed for the Color Run 5K this coming June 😉

    • ChicFitChef says:

      Thanks for posting this Windy- I will be sure to give the NYT article a look! I think the issue of overconsumption of concentrated sugars is something that can’t be solved in just ONE way- we need multiple avenues.

  7. ChicFitChef says:

    Stumbled upon this news article- CVS is now requiring health screenings for its employees (otherwise they will have to pay an additional $50/month under their employer health benefits plan). CVS claims that this isn’t a penalty but more of an incentive for their employees to get health screenings (info from the screenings would include body fat and blood pressure). If employers can “up the costs” of not paying attention to your health through these kinds of “incentive” plans, why can’t government “up the costs” by making it more difficult to get your hands on a Big Gulp? Or is CVS just as wrong? -CFC


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