The Not-So-Sweet Facts: Sugary Drink Ban Limits More Than Calories
Fact: Americans enjoy their drinks with sugar added. Just check out our nation’s consumption of soda, energy drinks, coffee and more:
Our love of sugary drinks has created a lot of conversation lately, from headlines about sales increases and declines to soda sizes growing and shrinking. Then there’s that proposed ban, intended to protect us – or at least those of us who like our tea sweet, coffee with sugar and ice-cold sodas on a hot day – from ourselves.
This sugary drink ban we speak of was proposed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in May 2012 to combat obesity. Here are the facts:
- The ban would apply to sugar-sweetened beverages, classified as any beverage sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener containing more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces and less than 51% milk or milk substitute by volume as an ingredient.
- By this definition, sugar-sweetened beverages include not only fountain and bottled soda, but also energy drinks, sweetened coffee, juices, teas and sports drinks. It also classified agave, honey and maple syrup as sugar-based sweeteners.
- Any sugar-sweetened beverage that was sized larger than 16 ounces would be banned at restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, coffee shops, pizza shops, delis, food trucks or street carts regulated by the city of New York. Not included in the ban were grocery and convenience stores.
- If establishments violated this rule, they would be subjected to a $200 fine.
To the relief of many New Yorkers, the ban was struck down on March 11, 2013, by Justice Milton A.Tingling, writing “The Board of Health may supervise and regulate the food supply of the city when it affects public health,” but that it was not proven in this case. The ban was overturned a day before it was set to commence. Mayor Bloomberg plans to appeal this decision.
The great majority of respondents were aware in some way of the ban.
Of those who were aware, 70% opposed the ban.
We asked those aware of the ban which types of drinks would have been affected. The majority knew soda was part of the ban; however a little more than a third were even aware that coffee, tea, juice and sports drinks would also be affected.
We also asked which venues would have been affected by the ban. The majority knew movie theaters, sports venues, and restaurants would be limited in sizes offered. However, less were aware that coffee shops, street carts and food trucks would also be limited. Many also incorrectly thought grocery and convenience stores would be affected.
Upon hearing the ban was struck down, nearly half of those polled were glad. Said one respondent, “… it’s not the municipal government’s role to dictate such matters. Though I do think the health problems are rampant and should be addressed.”
The New York City Sugary Drink Ban would have set a precedent for both the beverage and restaurant industries in this country. Perhaps even more momentous, it also would have set a precedent for the U.S. government’s ability to limit our personal freedoms in the name of protecting citizens. Though most citizens knew their soda intake would be limited, the breadth of the ban also came as a shock to most New Yorkers, especially when the news broke in early March that the ban could even impact coffee. Shortly after that revelation, the proposal was blocked. Coincidence or a testament to the power of our sweet morning latte habit?
In response to the controversy that has bubbled to the top in New York City, the state of Mississippi has passed a different kind of ban – a bill that prevents municipalities from governing what or how much people can eat or drink. Mississippi residents can now rest assured that their sweet tea — and their freedom of drink choice — is safe.