Diet Firms Throw Their Weight Behind NYC Soda Ban
Michael Bloomberg, the beleaguered Mayor of the New York City, is a happy man these days. The reason being his ambitious blanket ban on super-sized soda and other sugary drinks has enlisted support from a very influential lobby of diet companies such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. As the ban is scheduled to face a vote next week, the support couldn't have come at a better time. In case you are also a supporter of this ban (which we doubt!), read on to know how Bloomberg, now, intends to push this ban down the throats of the New York public.
The Prominent Backers
The announcement regarding the latest support came from the diet firms in a press conference, where Mayor Bloomberg was present too. The diet companies, including Weight Watchers, termed the NYC soda ban as a tool that makes it easy for the government to approach healthy eating issue. Speaking at the press conference, David Burwick, Weight Watchers' North America president, said, "Today, we live in a world where despite our best intentions, it's oftentimes very difficult on your own to make the healthy choice. We all need to take more personal responsibility for our own weight and eating habits, but it helps to remember what a healthy portion size is in a world where super-size portions have become the norm." It may do good to recall that the soda ban targets those drinks, which are more than 16 ounces. The support is another gesture in the line of many such acts, lent to the ban. Mayor Bloomberg is trying to reach restaurant owners, movie theaters, sports arenas, delis, and food trucks in a bid to create awareness against super-sized sodas.
While Bloomberg and others of his ilk may think that the soda ban is for the public good, the critics look at this latest show of support as a sign of government's ineffectiveness. The proposed ban is set to be voted at the NYC Board of Health on September 13, 2012. If approved, the ban would come into effect from March next year. However, this is not the first time Bloomberg has sought to implement a ban. In 11 years as the NYC Mayor, he has kept a close watch on what New Yorkers are eating and drinking. He has forced the city restaurants to put calorie counts on their menus and banned the sale of artificial trans fats from being served in restaurants. Despite his best efforts, the city continues to spend billions of dollars every year on health problems arising out of obesity.
In his defense, the Mayor says, "Nobody is restricting the amount of sodas you can buy or the amount of sodas you can drink. It is simply using portion control to point out to you...how many calories you are consuming." His statement resonates in the fact that scientists have already found a link between soda drinks and heart stroke. It seems his ban is finally gaining some support from influential groups, including Jenny Craig, who created the now famous South Beach Diet, which is already popular among celebrities. In fact, noted physicians and famous personalities such as Spike Lee and Chefs Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver have already shown their support to the ban. If the ban gets implemented, it would be a personal victory for Oliver, who has already campaigned hard against the sugary drinks being served in Los Angeles schools. While the ban has support from a lot of people, the First Lady Michelle Obama, who runs a health initiative herself, has remained quiet on this front so far.
Imposing a ban on food items or drinks deemed as harmful to the general public health is an accepted practice in the country nowadays. A few weeks ago, a Texas college implemented a ban on pork products in its canteen. The foie gras ban in California is still inviting vociferous criticism from various quarters of the society. Despite the support, the ban is not cutting much ice with the New Yorkers, who think the authority is overstepping its limits and shrinking the boundaries of personal freedom. In fact, the main opposition group to the ban, which calls itself "New Yorkers for Beverage Choices" (NYBC), has claimed that it has the support of about 200,000 people. A recent poll also showed that majority of New Yorkers were against the ban. The NYBC said in a statement, "Restrictions and bans will do nothing to address the very complex issue of obesity. New Yorkers are smart enough to make their own choices."
The latest news indicates that the supporters of the ban are asking Mayor Bloomberg to launch an advertizing campaign to popularize the soda ban. It now remains to be seen whether the vote, next week, meets its purpose or the ban is stopped in its tracks just like the foie gras ban in California. Whether the ban hits its target or not, the Mayor has made up his mind to keep a tight grip on the public consumption of goods such as these. In case you want to control your soda consumption on your own, you can do so without the ban.
Image Courtesy: queenscourier, fitnessmash, gothamist