Archive for September 7th, 2012

Who do you want to make the choice of what you eat or drink?

Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, proposed a ban on the sale of super-sized sugary drinks in the city’s restaurants, sport stadiums, movie theaters and other select places (see post for 6-7-12—“Should Government Control Portion Sizes?”). The mayor considered the plan a sensible way to cut calories and reduce the obesity rate. During his term, the city has banned trans fats in restaurant servings and required chain restaurants to post the number of calories in the foods they serve.

The current proposed ban created national pro and con debates. Supporters of the ban cite the high sugar content of drinks and the prevalence of obesity. The diet companies, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and others, support the mayor’s idea. However, the president of Weight Watchers, David Burwick, admitted that consumers needed to take more personal responsibility for their food choices. His concern was consumer’s lack of recognition of appropriate portion sizes.

About half of New Yorkers drank at least one cola (soda) each week, while about a third drank several colas per week. Diet drinks in New York City are less popular than full-sugared ones, a comparison of 53% to 23%.  Nearly 70% of Black and 60% of Hispanic New Yorkers tended to drink sugary drinks compared to about 40% of white residents. More of those who were obese were blacks and Hispanics.

However, diet drinks consumed by children nationwide doubled in the past decade. Adults, too, have increased their intake of diet drinks. Studies disagreed on the benefits of sugar-free beverages. Those who drank them tended to weigh more than those who chose water.

Opponents of the mayor’s ban represented every age, race, gender, political persuasion, and soda-consumption habits. Sixty percent of New York City citizens regarded the mayor’s plan a bad idea, while only 36% thought it was good. Other polls showed city voters disagreed 54% to 42%. Those opposed believed consumers should have the freedom to make personal choices and considered it an infringement on civil liberties.

On September 13, 2012, the Board of Health, whose members were appointed by the mayor, will vote on the issue. Many council members regarded the city council as responsible for the decision. Some members considered the idea offensive because it interfered with people’s lives. As one council member noted, it would be more helpful to educate people about healthier choices instead of delegating what people can and cannot do.

While consumers support regulations for food safety, choices of selecting high-calorie foods fall under a different category. Does it affect the freedom of choice for individuals and businesses? Of those responding to polls, most believed it did. Does government have the right to dictate what people can and cannot eat? The majority of New Yorkers didn’t think so.

What do you think?

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