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This summer New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a New York City soda ban in order to help combat rising obesity rates among children and adults. Technically, this proposal is more of a soda limit than a soda ban. Bloomberg’s plan would prohibit sales of excessively sized sugary drinks — meaning any cup or bottle of sweetened sugary drink larger than 16 fluid ounces sold by delis, fast-food franchises and sports arenas. The ban would not affect beverages sold in grocery stores or convenience stores. Personally, I think the ban is a great idea. However not everyone was on board with Bloomberg’s proposed ban, least of all the soda industry and others who profit from soda sales. Now in order to fight back, the soda industry, along with many New York restaurant, grocers and other business groups have filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Health and the New York Board of Health in order to stop the soda ban. The whopping 61 page lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, states that the NYC Board of Health has zero authority to change rules that affect sugary drink sales along with a lengthy rebuttal against the rules.

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The lawsuit states, “This case is not about obesity in New York City. This case is about the Board of Health, appointed by the mayor, bypassing the proper legislative process for governing the city.” Some key points of the lawsuit include the following:

  • The proposal represents an overreaching nanny administration.
  • Only slightly more than 1/3 of New Yorkers approve of the ban.
  • The ban unfairly singles out some sellers but not others.  For example, delis can’t sell large sodas but a 7-Eleven can.
  • While ban supporters say the ban will introduce people to proper portion sizes, the lawsuit claims this is not the case, and the ban will be a failure.
  • The ban will waste money because companies will have to switch out 16.9 oz. beverage bottles for 16 oz. sizes. The lawsuit also points out that movie theaters make their money on large drinks, thus keeping movie costs lower (lower – really?).

And so on and so on. To sum up, soda companies and people who sell soda to sugar hungry America want to be able to continue to do so however they wish.

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Say what you will about nanny states, but the soda ban isn’t a bad idea especially when you consider the fact that obesity is a nationwide problem with no signs of slowing. In fact, recently New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley stated that the government should regulate food companies when it comes to unhealthy ingredients in products that contribute to obesity because obesity is now a whopping epidemic affecting 1-in-3 Americans, costing the U.S. $150 billion a year in related health care costs. Furthermore, new projections released just this week by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts that by 2030 more than half the people in most states will be obese. This means kids too. Other recent research shows that unless kids (and their parents) make some major health changes, more than one in five young people will be obese by 2020. People don’t like to discuss it, and in fact even dismiss it as untrue, but excess weight and obesity in kids causes some very real health problems. Yes, bans on anything are a slippery slope and normally I’d say no to bans that control what folks eat or do, however, this is a special problem. Thus far, very little seems to be helping reduce obesity rates. One study published this year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows that in order to combat obesity rates, people across the country would need to cut out about 64 calories a day on average, which a super sized soda ban could help with.

Should this lawsuit win out? Should companies be allowed to keep on selling massive sugary drinks to Americans? Tell us what you think in the comments.