Mike Bloomberg Wants To Control The Size Of Your Soft Drink
New York City's Mayor wants to control the size of soft drinks.
Today’s New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a broad series of regulations that would regulate the size of soft drinks sold in restaurants, sports stadiums, and street vendor carts in the nation’s largest city:
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
The ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving, like zero-calorie Vitamin Waters and unsweetened iced teas, as well as diet sodas.
Restaurants, delis, movie theater and ballpark concessions would be affected, because they are regulated by the health department. Carts on sidewalks and in Central Park would also be included, but not vending machines or newsstands that serve only a smattering of fresh food items.
At fast-food chains, where sodas are often dispersed at self-serve fountains, restaurants would be required to hand out cup sizes of 16 ounces or less, regardless of whether a customer opts for a diet drink. But free refills — and additional drink purchases — would be allowed.
Corner stores and bodegas would be affected if they are defined by the city as “food service establishments.” Those stores can most easily be identified by the health department letter grades they are required to display in their windows.
The mayor, who said he occasionally drank a diet soda “on a hot day,” contested the idea that the plan would limit consumers’ choices, saying the option to buy more soda would always be available.
“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”
That’s what makes Bloomberg’s plan entirely ridiculous to begin with. There’s nothing to stop a movie patron from, say, buying those two 160z Coke’s, or going back for a refill if they finish the first one, and there’s next to nothing that would stop a patron in a restaurant from ordering a second soft drink during the course of their meal regardless of the size of the container that it comes in (not that I want to give Bloomberg and his fellow Nanny Staters any ideas, of course). Indeed, the entire measure seems to be little more than an act of mindless symbolism that will restrict the personal choices of customers and business owners while failing to even come close to accomplishing the goal that Bloomberg claims he wants to accomplish, assuming that is even a legitimate goal of the state to begin with. What’s to stop someone from buying a tw0-liter bottle of soda and taking it home, for example? Is Bloomberg next going to regulate the sale of soft drinks in supermarkets and bodegas, and then require citizens to file reports on how much non-diet soda they’ve had in the previous month? Since there’s no real logic behind Bloomberg’s plan, there’s no reason to think that he or his supporters believe that there any legitimate limits on this supposed duty of the state to control what completely legal substances people put in their bodies.
Of course, not everyone agrees this is such a bad idea. Not surprisingly, for example, Sarah Kliff seems to think it’s a great idea:
Other attempts to regulate soda have come with mixed results. While many cities and states have begun taxing sugary drinks, research suggests that none of the new policies raise the price of soda enough to reduce consumption. When schools ban sugary drinks in their vending machines, students often make up for the lack of soda on campus by drinking more at home (or, in some cases, even setting up a sort of black market for the calorie-dense contraband).
Portion size, on the other hand, has consistently been shown to affect how much we eat. In one well-known experiment, Philadelphia moviegoers were given either a medium or large bucket of stale, two-week old popcorn. Those with the large bucket ate 33.6 percent more popcorn, despite the fact it tasted pretty awful. When the package size of a snack food is doubled, calories consumed tend to go up by about a third.
“The more general explanation of why large packages and portions increase consumption may be that they suggest larger consumption norms,” writes Cornell University’s Brian Wansink, who has pioneered much of the research on food portion size. “They implicitly suggest what might be construed as a “normal” or ‘appropriate’ amount to consume.”
On the flipside, when portions get reduced, calorie consumption goes down. Belgian researchers recentlylooked at what happened when they cut a group of schoolchildren’s cookies in half. They found that the simple act of splitting cookies into smaller pieces — even while offering kids the same total number of calories — reduced consumption by 25 percent.
The problem is that the City of New York is not a school lunchroom in Belgium and New Yorkers are not Belgian school children. If all you’re doing is reducing is the size of the container that someone can purchase at a given time, there’s no reason to think they won’t just purchase more. Moreover, Kliff’s argument forgets the fact that these increases in portion size are, by and large, a response to consumer choice. Unlike a child in school, someone who is buying a beverage in public is not a captive consumer, they have the right to purchase whatever size and whatever type of a drink that they want. Kliff may not like the choices that consumers have made, but that doesn’t mean that she or the Mayor of New York city have the right to go around imposing their choices on other people.
More importantly, the fact that a policy like this might work is largely irrelevant. There are any number of restrictive policies that the government could impose that might arguably have some beneficial impact (although they would also likely have many destructive consequences as well), but just because the state can do something, that doesn’t mean it should. As Jonathan Tobin points out at Commentary, this isn’t about what works this is about freedom of choice:
[E]ven if we concede that drinking too much soda is an unhealthy practice, what the mayor again fails to understand is that the purpose of government is to protect freedom, not to heedlessly infringe upon it merely for the sake of what some people may believe is doing good. Like the city’s ban on the use of trans fats and draconian restrictions on smoking, the new soda regulations are an intolerable intrusion into the private sphere. Though the mayor seems to relish his reputation as the embodiment of the concept of the so-called nanny state, what is going on here is something far more sinister than a billionaire version of Mary Poppins presiding at Gracie Mansion.
And this is the man that people like Tom Friedman and the cognoscenti of the Acela Corrider think America needs in the Oval Office. Given that they share Bloomberg’s vision of government as being a technocratic institution designed to force individuals to make the choices that the “wise” men and women think are correct for them, this isn’t entirely surprising. However, that isn’t the kind of country I want to live in, and I dare to say that there are few Americans who would.
Tobin also does an excellent job of deconstructing the “but its good for you” argument that people like Bloomberg make in support of regulations like this:
The point here is not to defend drinking excessive amounts of soda, consuming trans fats or smoking. It is to point out that these are personal choices that cannot reasonably be interpreted to fall under the purview of municipal government. The danger is that the end of personal liberty is not usually accomplished in one broad stroke but is lost by a process of erosion whereby seemingly sensible measures gradually accumulate to create a new reality wherein the once broad protection of the law for private behavior is destroyed piecemeal.
Those who defend the mayor’s actions claim the medical costs of the illnesses caused by drinking, eating and smoking are affected in one way or another by the public and that gives government the right to regulate and/or ban such items. But there is a difference between personal behavior that poses a direct threat to public safety — such as drivng while under the influence of alcohol — and those that constitute minute and indirect contributions to serious problems. If the mayor is allowed to ban private diet or health choices under the principle that he has the right to “do something” about anything that is a public concern, then there is literally no limit to his power to infringe on personal liberty or to intrude on commerce.
That’s really what this boils down to. In the end, this is a matter of personal choice. There, perhaps, a role for government at the state and local level to engage in public health education programs to ensure that people, especially low-income people, are more informed about the food choices they make. I also don’t necessarily have a problem with efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, or even to remove soda machines from public schools (when I went to school, the idea of a soda machine in the cafeteria would’ve been laughed away as an absurd idea). When it comes to the private health and food choices of individuals out in the world, though, responsibility ultimately must be left with the individual to do what is right. Moreover, if someone wants to knowingly make choices that are bad for them, that’s their choice too. I’d prefer to deal with the consequences of those choices than to live in a world where the “wise men” in power are telling people how to live their lives “for their own good.”
The first reaction I had upon reading this article this morning was what business is this of government at any level? Unless you want to live in a world where the Mayor, the Governor, or some unnamed bureaucrat is making your choices for you, there really isn’t any way this question can be answered other than by saying, it isn’t.
There’s nothing to stop a movie patron from, say, buying those two 160z Coke’s, or going back for a refill if they finish the first one, and there’s next to nothing that would stop a patron in a restaurant from ordering a second soft drink during the course of their meal
I think that’s a feature, not a bug.
Off Topic?? YOU Be The Judge!!
This doesn’t seem like it would work the same way banning trans fats or smoking in public places does. Unless you ban unhealthy drinks altogether I don’t see how it is enforceable.
That said, obesity is an epidemic and I applaud Bloomberg for at least making an effort. I think it needs to be approached from a different direction though. Make it more expensive to be fat and people will respond. Pay more for health insurance, pay for two seats on a plane, pay for clothes by the yard, etc.
While I am not in favor of this or any other ban, I had to laugh when I saw “Moreover, if someone wants to knowingly make choices that are bad for them, that’s their choice too.”
As a general rule, the same people opposing this are also the same people who oppose calorie counts on menus, stating the amount of trans-fats in bakery products, and many other measures intended to make sure the consumer’s choices are “knowing”
I would like to see smaller, small drinks offered I usually order a small drink in fast food places and end up dumping half. Most times I ask for a water cup which is what a small drink used to look like.Obesity is an epidemic in this country and I feel it is because food is all around us. There was a time when you had to go out of your way for fast food, Now it is in gas stations and malls It`s a shame to see kids so fat they can hardly make it up a flight of stairs.
That said I do not feel it is the mayors job to ban it. People need to be responsible for themselves, and their kids.
When larger sizes were introduced, did that make people buy more? Or did people just stop buying two smaller sizes and instead bought the larger size?
I would argue that the size available has an effect on consumption, a lot of people won’t buy two drinks or get refills. (And those options will be available for those who still want more.)
There are quite a few reasons to think otherwise:
Again, not true.
For someone who lionizes the free-market so much, you see to have a very limited understanding of it.
There is no “free market” when the government is dictating the size of food containers businesses can use. You may like this kind of Technocratic Authoritarianism, I find it offensive.
I get the salt and trans-fat decisions — those are ingrediants harmful in large quantities that ar essentlally invisible to the consumer. I’m strongly in favor of posting calorie counts, even though it means there are a couple of chains I’ll never go back to again for fear of discovering just what I’ve eaten there. But this seems silly — beverage size is a conscious consumer choice. It would be much more effective simply to stop wasting government money paying farmers to grow corn, and thus allowing the price of high fructose corn syrup to match its actual cost. That will kill large sizes faster than anything else.
@J-Dub: We’ve made it cost a lot more to be a smoker over the past 20 years, and I still see plenty of people buying Marlboros every time I get gas or go to Walgreens.
@Doug Mataconis: Again, you eschew approaching substantive points with hand-waving about “Technocratic Authoritarianism.” You write undeniable falsehoods about the economics of portion sizing and caloric intake. My point is simply that you have no idea what you’re talking about beyond being angry at Mike Bloomberg because he doesn’t not sufficient share your simplistic view of how markets work.
Moreover, I never siad I “liked” the policy. I never said anything about the policy’s merits beyond pointing out actual research on the issue. Don’t put words into my mouth.
You don’t understand. The “economics” don’t matter. The government should not be doing things like this.
Yes it would. But thanks the disproportionate representation of rural constituencies, we can’t have nice things.
@Doug Mataconis: A silly argument. Your pre-conceived notions about what the government should and should not being doing does not take precedence over actual public policy issues. Just because Mike Bloomberg doesn’t have your policy priorities at heart doesn’t give you license to to publish sloppy, uninformed criticisms of anti-obesity initiatives.
Obviously you don’t share my values. Fine. If you don’t want to believe that there should be limits on what the government can do, or that people should be free to live their lives without having something as simple as buying a soda controlled by the state, that’s your choice. .
Does government regulate the percentage of alcohol that is allowed in beer and liqour? I would guess so, but I’m really not sure.
If so, wouldn’t it be easier, and maybe less offensive to people, to regulate the amount of sugar a drink can have?
@James: “But thanks the disproportionate representation of rural constituencies, we can’t have nice things. ”
Yes. Like the senate representing anything but a small minority of the country’s population.
@Doug Mataconis: I’m reviewing through my comments to find the part where I said “I believe that there should not be limits on what the government can do” or “people should not be free to live their lives without having something as simple as buying a soda controlled by the state”. Perhaps you can be of aid.
Now that you’ve knocked down those formidable strawmen, maybe you can parse my comments a little more.
More generally, it’s responses like this, Doug, its what forces me to genuinely question your ability to have a substantive discussion on public policy questions. You’re not willing to engage that perhaps there is a reason to think that “reducing is the size of the container that someone can purchase at a given time” will have an effect on their overall caloric consumption. Or perhaps, there’s more to portion size increase we’ve been observing, other than consumer choice.
Free refills, which are already almost universal, are going to get even more popular in New York. I expect stores will simply make the soda machines self-serve which is already the case in many places. “Diet” drinks won’t be restricted, so what’s to prevent me from buying a “diet” drink in a large cup and then filling up with whatever I want?
Like the so-called “happy meal” ban in San Francisco, minor adjustments will be made and nothing much will change. You’d think people would learn after all the failed attempts at this kind of social engineering.
If you had written only that originally, then it would be fine (but boring). I think James’s issue is that you’re backing up that belief with falsehoods.
Good blog post.
What’s funny about these wealthy idiot statists — in a tragicomedy sense — is that if we ever did move towards a truly statist government they’d be on their lear jets out of here so fast it would make our heads spin around.
It’s just silly that such a law wouldn’t include diet sodas as well. There’s just no evidence that diet sodas are better for you than regular. Calories, schmalories, they both f**k up your metabolism, cause weight gain, and incidentally may also reduce bone density.
It pains me to agree with Doug on this…because…really…it’s a slippery slope…what’s next…wearing a Yankees hat?
But he is right:
The law doesn’t specifiy how sugary that 16oz soda can be. So isn’t there a loophole if vendors just start selling concentrated 16oz “double strength” sodas, along with a free 32oz cup half full of carbonated water?
Of course you probably shouldn’t trust me as an unbiased source on this because I’ve already had 64oz. of Coke today, including 24oz. of Mexican Coke…mmmmm…real sugar….mmmmm.
@Doug Mataconis: Moreover, “purchasing soda” isn’t a “simply thing” that’s “free from” state interference. I mean jeez, what if a company wants to cut corners on their production facility and taints everything with a nasty insecticide like paraquat? What if soda production firms start pursuing a strategy of high volume/high margin sales, negatively impacting public health nationwide?
I mean, do you just not get that “individual choice” is not the be all, end all magic phrase that simply shuts down all argument, no matter how empirically-backed or sourced?
I find it interesting that James and a bunch of sociologists sitting in their offices think they can predict human behavior.
But, like I said, that is really unrelated to what’s really wrong with what Bloomberg proposes here.
Let me repeat myself, but only once.
I believe that people have the right to make their own choices on things like this, you don’t.
Thus, we are at a philosophical impasse that is likely unresolveable.
Do you happen to have a good source for the diet soda messes up your metabolism thing? I’ve heard rumblings about that. Frankly, it pisses me off since I want some caffeine but hate coffee and don’t like regular soda. Result: three cans of diet pepsi a day. If that’s just as bad for me as drinking three cans of regular pepsi, well crap.
We can have nice things, but they’re all bad for you, apparently. Grrr.
This is the bottom line, in my humble opinion:
What is obesity, a problem, or a revealed preference?
If you believe obesity is a problem, for the individual (it sucks to be out of shape), and for the state (it sucks to pay for all that health care), then you can’t throw up your arms and squawk like a chicken every time someone tries to address the problem. Especially not when someone who really wants one can go back for that second soda.
This does bite at an economic and libertarian fiction though … that everyone out there is a free and rational agent, making decisions that only they can know are best for them. If that were true you’d have to accept the other part. You’d have to accept that it is revealed preference, every obese person has made the decision to be obese, and the state should support them in that.
So you are arguing “revealed preference” and that people just want to be fat, and that’s fine?
Well, that is what they do (the sociologists at least). I imagine in many cases they do a good job and have contributed some value to society. You’re starting to sound like an anti-science crank.
Fine, the point is you shouldn’t back up your ideological viewpoints with falsehoods. Don’t you agree? (You also shouldn’t be so cranky about never admitting errors.)
I read the links James provided, I found them unconvincing.
I believe that people make choices, and that choices have consequences. Part of being an adult is learning from the consequences of your bad choices.
A few points on this:
1) I’m an economist, not a sociologist.
2) You’re just making an argument from ignorance. Maybe you don’t know (or don’t believe) anything about heuristic biases or decision-making research, but making claims of incredulity about how we can’t “predict” human behavior doesn’t magically wave away the body of empirical research we have on portion sizing and caloric intake. Slightly tangental, but don’t you notice how you don’t actually approach or rebut my own words, but simply associate me with a position I never took? I don’t recall saying anything about how we can “predict human behavior.”
Well, that’s fine. I don’t think I ever said anything suggesting you don’t have a right to your own beliefs. I just think your stance on the issue is more an article of faith in how perfectly competitive markets are supposed to operate, than a genuine want to understand a complex policy problem.
Let me repeat this. Even if knowledge is imperfect. Even if people make “bad” decisions. The government still has no business forcing them to make the “right” decision. Got it?
The science is telling us we are all bad at decision making. Here’s a bit about markets, but it certainly applies to what we put in our mouths:
At this point you are sounding a little puritan.
Do you expect people to choose and fail, and that their failure is somehow more important than gentle guidance and success?
You know, in modern parlance it is about nudges and not about bans, injunctions, or any actual restrictions of freedom.
… but strangely people like you are so sensitive that you see every nudge as iron cuffs on your feet!
From my “nudge” link above:
Basically Doug is so caught up on “not free to get a 32 oz cup” that he misses the freedom to go back and get two of the 16 ouncers. Indeed he cites that as a flaw in the plan, rather than its libertarian empowerment.
You can go back and get 10 cups Doug. You are free.
The hope is just that you’ll start to feel full, or caught up in the movie, and on average consume a few less empty calories.
There is no “free market”
when the government is dictating the size of food containers businesses can use. You may like this kind of Technocratic Authoritarianism, I find it offensive. :
There, fixed it for you.
@Doug Mataconis: Even if you ignore entire bodies of empirical evidence, you’ll cling to your pre-conceived notions of lazzie-faire optimality? Do you know the actual dollar amount (state-level) taxpayers are on the hook for, if obesity rates continue at their current pace?
I mean, what’s almost ~$75,000M in taxpayer dollars for the right to my daily purchase of the most sugar-loaded 64 oz. Double Gulp money can buy?
There is a difference between the “nudge” of public health education and this kind of “Bloomberg Knows Best” Technocracy. The first is fine, the second goes beyond the pale in my opinion.
No one limits nudges to public education. You made that up yourself.
The classic example of a nudge is “opt out rather than opt in” for retirement savings. Setting the default for savings has been shown to encourage responsible behavior, even though the freedom is exactly the same. Anyone may change their plan from the default.
Basically Doug is saying that the trip back for another soda is so burdensome, that he’d rather a few people live shorter, unhappier, lives, rather than loose the one-trip freedom.
Basically, “emotional freedom” is more important to Doug than longer, healthier, and better lives.
The real purpose here is obvious. Bloomberg having his billions hates poor people and wants to take as much money as possible from them by stealth taxing their routine purchases.
That’s somewhat extreme but true. The cost of a soda is mostly in the cup, not the soda or even the ice. Every see price differences between the small soda and the humungous? Therefore, by forcing people to buy more cups, you increase the cost to the poor while the extra expense has little affect on the more well to do. Other than inconvenience of engaging in more transactions, taking up more of their time, and reducing their productivity.
Oh, and the mark up on soda is huge, so this will cut into the bottom line.
Plus the increase in number of cups, increases trash, so perhaps Bloomberg is helping out the gentlemen who control NYC garbage collection. And let’s not consider the carbon footprint.
All told, Bloomberg is either corrupt, oppressive or to stupid to realize the implications of his fool ideas.
But one thing is a given. Bloomberg is not a supporter of freedom or liberty. Well, except for his friends, cronies and I’m sure those who donate their fair share to his personal campaign funds.
(I say “emotional freedom” because no concrete freedoms are limited here. He goes all “‘Bloomberg Knows Best’ Technocracy” on us, not for soda bans, or consumption bans, or any kind of ban whatsoever. Cup size freedom is more important than health.)
I share Doug’s uneasiness. Generally, I prefer to avoid bans (granted, as has been pointed out, this ban has an easy end-around: buy 2). But I support nudges. We all have to decide where we draw the line between what is a “nudge” and what is too much. My gut (which is ample, thanks to freeeeeee willlll!) says this is taking things too far.
@Doug Mataconis: Doug, where do you draw the line, or don’t you? Do you think crack and heroin should be legal? (personally, I think they should)
At first glance I thought that was parody .. because certainly you see the tension between these two things;
“The cost of a soda is mostly in the cup, not the soda or even the ice.”
“Oh, and the mark up on soda is huge, so this will cut into the bottom line.”
There is so much mark-up on a $5 movie soda that nothing else matters.
@JKB: “I could only buy a 32. oz.” he weeped.
And then lo, Atlas Shrugged.
I oppose the War On (Some) Drugs largely because, like Prohibition, it has proven to be a demonstrable failure.
@Rob in CT:
I’d probably draw a different line with a 10% obesity rate, rather than our current 35.7 percent of the adult population and 16.9 percent of children.
How much evidence, and direct impact on state and federal budgets, do we need?
Whereas the education campaign against obesity has worked?
You do understand this impacts your taxes and health insurance rates, right?
@James: Your comments assume this policy will actually impact portion size. It’s one thing to assert empirical evidence regarding the effects of reduced portions – it’s quite another to assert that a government is actually able to craft and enforce rules that will, in reality, reduce portion sizes. That is where this policy will fail.
You are asking us to believe that 100% of former 32 oz purchasers will now buy two 16’s.
That’s not the way minds work. See the “anchoring bias,” in particular. 16 ouces becomes the new anchor.
Can you find the comment where I said “this policy will negatively impact portion sizes”? I think I stated quite clearly, about an hour ago, that
I haven’t made a single assertion or suggestion that “a government is actually able to craft and enforce rules that will, in reality, reduce portion sizes.” Stop putting words into my mouth.
I’m not saying it won’t have any effect. Obviously it will. I’m saying the effect will be so limited as to be inconsequential. It won’t, in other words, significantly reduce soda consumption to a degree that would have any measurable impact on obesity. This is a rule that is exceedingly easy for consumers and sellers of soda to get around.
I’m saying that reducing container size likely won’t have a significant impact on portion size. Why? Because it’s exceedingly easy to consume the same portion even with a limit on container size. Again, free refills. Self-serve kiosks. If there is empirical research (ie. actual studies of behavior, not modelling or surveys) that takes such factors into account and concludes that the actual result of reducing container size will be a non-trivial reduction in consumption then I’m all ears.
@Rob in CT: What I’ve read is that there is a correlation between diet sodas and lower metabolism but nobody know why (nor if correlation=causation in this case, because perhaps people who drink diet soda have other habits). One study published in the journal “Behavioral Neuroscience” talks about a study done with rats. I’ve also read that artificial sweeteners tend to just make you crave more sweet things, so you just end up consuming the same calories. Perhaps that’s intertwined with the metabolism issue.
Anyway, I grew up drinking pop and admittedly love it. Cutting it out is hard, and I even managed to go a year without it once. But that’s unsustainable. Now I get a small (regular) pop once a week and have been doing this for several years now. It’s just the right amount of restrictiveness for me – not so much that I eventually give up on it, but enough that I’m happy with my health.
@Andy: Did you read those quotes? Maybe you should read them again. You’re accusing me of saying, or suggesting, that my comments “assume this policy will actually impact portion size.”
All I stated in the above comments, and this thread in general, is that we have a reason to think that “reducing is the size of the container that someone can purchase at a given time will have an effect on their overall caloric consumption.” And we do!
The USDA publication I linked, in the above comment you quoted, very clearly states:
“Literature”, as in “actual studies of behavior, not modelling or surveys.” Stop waving you hands and whining about how you’re “all ears” for information. Go read the links provided in the comments, or submit your own.
The size of soft drinks sold in restaurants, sports stadiums, and from street vendor carts will not in themselves end the obesity epidemic, but if they will “make a difference” we can be pretty sure it will be positive from a health standpoint.
Back to Doug and his libertarian fright at 16 oz drinks, I wonder … how does he (they) think we got to 35% obesity? Seriously. Did fully 1/3 of the American people just punt on personal responsibility?
I agree with that, at least in the abstract. The question is how big of an effect will it have and, further, how much of an effect will this particular policy have? I’ve already made my case there and after rereading your comments, I accept that you have not staked out a position on this particular policy. My apologies.
“if they will make a difference.” So New York is implementing a policy in the hope that it has an effect – in other words, we don’t really know if it will make a difference or not.
When I wrote “they will make a difference” I was paraphrasing you:
But without data or study you also assert:
Shouldn’t you avoid contradicting yourself?
Seriously though, I think the important numbers are “35.7 percent of the adult population and 16.9 percent of children.”
If you want to impress me Andy or Doug, explain how we got to 35.7%, given the libertarian and pre-behavioral economics notions of “rational consumers.”
If serving size and universally available sweets didn’t do it, what did?
You are asking a meaningless question to Doug. Doug has made it abundantly clear that the welfare of people (at least those not in the 1%) matters nothing to him, so long as they are unconstrained by the government. As his comments in this thread make clear, it’s a moral principle for him.
Indeed, if I were inclined to put together a list of examples showing how Randian utopianism touches all of the bases to be considered a religion, this thread would be a great example.
@Andy: I appreciate (and share) your concerns. I don’t want to comment on this policy’s likely impact because, as you say, we can only “hope that it has an effect.”
But! I don’t think our inability to perfectly predict how NY’s specific policy will result, impeaches the strong body of portion sizing and caloric intake science we have at hand.
You are being ridiculous, as usual.
I care about people, but I also know that every person is a self-aware, competent, human being who is capable of making their own choices, evaluating the consequences of those choices, and changing their behavior accordingly. Bloomberg, and those in this thread who seem to support his insane idea, believes that people are incapable of thinking for themselves unless the benevolent technocrats of the state tell them what to think.
Although I do note a contradiction. Bloomberg is pro-choice on abortion, as am I. So he believes women can control their bodies, but that people don’t have the right to control what they put in their bodies.
Doug, you’re missing the point.
“Choice” is only relevant when it comes to matters related to sex. That is the only area where “choice” is important enough to keep it in the hands of the individuals. In every other circumstance in life, “choice” is bad because some people might make bad choices. Therefore, no one should be allowed to make any choices.
@Doug Mataconis: Can you find me the part where anyone said, “Oh god, people are incapable of thinking for themselves unless the benevolent technocrats of the state tell them what to think”?
@Doug Mataconis and @Jenos Idanian: It’s kind of fitting that Jenos runs with your playbook Doug. We’re not talking about “choice” in some abstract manner. Mr. Bloomberg isn’t outlawing “choice”. He’s pursuing rational, empirically-backed anti-obesity public health policy to help alleviate the $6.08B burden New York state’s taxpayers are on the hook for, and help reduce the 23.9% of New Yorkers who are clinically obese.
How about “sports” drinks? Loaded with sugar. How about fruit juice? That has a lot of sugar too, naturally. Is the mayor going to put any limits on how much alcoholic beverages a person can buy? How about those huge mugs of beer with no limits on refills? Or is the mayor not concerned with the dangers of over drinking: horrible wrecks, violent fits and other actions while drunk!
Here are headlines from the NYT of the near future:
“Church closed by police – serving soft drinks at Vacation Bible School”
“Police arrest scout leaders for having soft drinks at a hot dog cookout”
“Man locked up: possession of carbonated beverages in car”
“Teens arrested: riding a bicycle while drinking a Coke!”
This is Big Brother gone to seed!
“I care about people, but I also know that every person is a self-aware, competent, human being who is capable of making their own choices, evaluating the consequences of those choices, and changing their behavior accordingly. Bloomberg, and those in this thread who seem to support his insane idea, believes that people are incapable of thinking for themselves unless the benevolent technocrats of the state tell them what to think.”
Keep digging. You’ve made it abundantly clear over the months I have been at this site that the welfare of non-rich people is meaningless to you. You oppose any actions taken on their behalf, if it takes one cent from the pockets of the rich or constrains them in any way, and belittle those who want to use collective action to aid the welfare of those who are not rich. Your belief in people being competent to stand up in the face of manipulation and abuse by the rich and powerful is not capable of being shaken by mere facts, and is the equivalent of a religious belief.
@Moosebreath: Explanation would help. Are you saying that you want the government telling you what you can eat and drink? Next would be what you can read and where you can go.
@Racehorse: That’s exactly like saying same-sex marriage will lead to man-dog marriage. You’re offering nothing to the discussion here other than muddy waters.
@James: And when ObamaCare becomes law, and we’re all in it together, will there be “fat panels” who decide who gets medical treatment based on their lifestyle choices?
For example, there are a lot of very expensive medical conditions that… how can I put this delicately… “disproportionately” afflict gay men. Why should they be free to rack up the costs of their health care, when we’re all paying for it?
Let’s make it illegal to engage in sexual activity without condoms (well, when at least one participant is male), unless heterosexual procreation is the goal. And let’s make sure they have a doctor’s note for that procreation. That’ll really cut down on health care costs.
I need the Government to inspect my Mexican Coke….mmmm, real sugar….to make sure it’s not contaminated. I don’t need them to tell me how much to consume.
If Bloomberg’s concern is the health care costs of the obese…then he should do everything he can to make sure everyone is covered by insurance. That’s the point of health care reform. Dictating the size of portions, especially of a narrow range of products, is not an effective means to that end.
I’ve made my poistion clear early on in this discussion:
“While I am not in favor of this or any other ban, I had to laugh when I saw “Moreover, if someone wants to knowingly make choices that are bad for them, that’s their choice too.”
As a general rule, the same people opposing this are also the same people who oppose calorie counts on menus, stating the amount of trans-fats in bakery products, and many other measures intended to make sure the consumer’s choices are “knowing” “
@Jenos Idanian: Not only do you have no idea what you are talking about, but you have made absolutely no sense whatsoever. We are all, surely, more stupid for having read that.
Bloomberg should definitely regulate the size of pizza slices so that douche bags like Trump don’t have to use forks.
Donald Trump should have been evicted and permanently banned from New York City for eating pizza with a fork
Wow. How much more idiotic #Occupy rhetoric can you put in a single comment?
There’s just no evidence that diet sodas are better for you than regular. Calories, schmalories, they both f**k up your metabolism, cause weight gain, and incidentally may also reduce bone density.
Diet sodas don’t have calories. No calories. So they can’t cause weight gain. They *are* bad for you in other ways, though, including, as you said, bone density. I’m still addicted to Diet Coke, though.
@James: Fine, I’ll spell it out for you and any other really, really stupid people out there.
The gay male lifestyle involves activities that put their health at greater risk than those who don’t engage in homosexual behavior. Shouldn’t they pay more for their insurance? Or, if not, shouldn’t their conduct be regulated for their own good, as well as the collective good?
The government still has no business forcing them to make the “right” decision.
As a blanket statement, that’s untrue. Government certainly does have the right — and the obligation — to regulate the choices people make when those choices have significant public health consequences.
I’m not saying that sugary drinks have such an adverse effect on public health that Bloomberg is justified in calling for a law to ban stores from selling them in large sizes. I think his proposed law is kind of stupid because the causes of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. are so much broader and deeper than just sugary drinks that the public health benefit from banning them the way he wants to do is going to be negligible, imo.
However, the government *does* have the right to “force” people’s choices IF those choices affect the public health. Smoking would be a good example of that. The connection between secondary smoke and respiratory diseases including lung cancer is well-established, so when someone is smoking, it’s more than their individual choice to smoke that’s in question. It’s also my right not to breathe it in.
Let people drink the soda they want to drink.
Look, if the council or legislators decide that they don’t want a city-run facility to sell mega-death sized sodas, so be it. However a licensed private business should be permitted to sell the sodas that their customers want.
Comments like yours encapsulate quite succinctly why I will never consider myself a “liberal,” “progressive,” or whatever it is you guys call yourselves these days
There is no “free market”
I’m glad you said that. I had the same thought.
No, you misunderstand me.
Portion sizes are obviously one factor (of many) in America’s obesity problem. I agree that in theory reducing portion sizes would help the problem. What I’m questioning is the assertion that government is capable of crafting and enforcing rules that will, in reality, reduce actual portion sizes consumed, specifically with regard to soft drinks and this rule in NYC. Advocates who support this policy, who believe it will have the claimed effects, and who believe it won’t be creatively bypassed by sellers and consumers (as was the “happy meal” ban in San Francisco) have the burden of proving that this ban will actually accomplish what is claimed.
@Kathy Kattenburg: So, Kathy, I take it you’d support my theoretical “condom mandate?” After all, those unrestrained swimmers can wreak all kinds of havoc on our partners. Hell, I can think of several ways they can kill.
Comments like yours encapsulate quite succinctly why I will never consider myself a “liberal,” “progressive,” or whatever it is you guys call yourselves these days
I could write out this same sentence, change the ending to ” ” ‘conservative’ or ‘libertarian’ or whatever it is you guys call yourselves these days” and it would be just as meaningless as it is the way you wrote it.
You’ve said exactly nothing. Or, you’ve said the incredibly obvious, for what purpose cannot be discerned.
I have no idea what your “condom mandate” is, Jenos.
I agree with regard to smoking because smoke travels and can affect others. That is a legitimate public health issue, as are things like communicable diseases. Food consumption, however, does not fit in that model since food consumption and obesity isn’t communicable.
@Kathy Kattenburg: Then let me repeat myself, Kathy:
Let’s make it illegal to engage in sexual activity without condoms (well, when at least one participant is male), unless heterosexual procreation is the goal. And let’s make sure they have a doctor’s note for that procreation. That’ll really cut down on health care costs.
Note that I’m saying that as a male.
So he believes women can control their bodies, but that people don’t have the right to control what they put in their bodies.
One difference would be that the choices a woman makes to carry a pregnancy to term or have an abortion affect no one but herself and her immediate family. The choices people in general make to consume sugary drinks and fatty foods and huge portion sizes of everything affects public health.
This is keeping in mind what I said before regarding my opinion on the wisdom of banning large-size sugary drinks. But there IS some degree of public health consequence from the obesity epidemic — the question for me is only whether banning large-size sugary drinks in grocery stores would be likely to have ANY discernible effect on the obesity epidemic.
@Jenos Idanian: Can you find per-capita data on the issue? And perhaps how the scourge of unprotected gay male sex is impacting state budgets? Is it anywhere near the tune of $6.05 B that New York state alone is facing in obesity costs?
@Andy: “Communicable diseases” is a poor standard. The government prevents mercury from getting into your bread not because mercury poising is a communicable disease, but because it’s a serious threat to public health.
So any time I make a choice that impacts other people the (city, state, Federal Government) has a right to regulate my activity?
That sounds pretty close to totalitarianism to me.
@Doug Mataconis: Well, you’re ignoring the whole “democratic process” part. And the “ability to appeal to my elected representatives part”.
As I’ve said before, you are free to move to Somalia, if you feel the burden of society is too great to bear.
@James: I didn’t limit it to just “gay male sex.” Yeah, that was my first example, but that was just to make things a bit awkward for your side. But the more I thought about it, it wasn’t just gay men causing the problems — it’s all us men. Unintended pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, STDs transmitted to women… us guys’ swimmers are awesomely dangerous weapons.
Please point me to the political principle that gives the majority the authority to decide what size soda people can drink
@Jenos Idanian: So you support the Affordable Care Act’s no co-pay contraception mandate? Because that’s exactly the problem the policy is trying to attack.
I am happy we agree!
Let’s make it illegal to engage in sexual activity without condoms (well, when at least one participant is male), unless heterosexual procreation is the goal.
As a practical matter, Jenos, how would a law like that be enforced? Would the government have the right to post observers in couples’ bedrooms? I think the impracticality of making it illegal to have heterosexual sex w/o a condom and having such a law actually work, makes this idea a little different from a law banning stores from selling large-size sugary drinks.
In other words, your comment is really stupid and I do not understand why I even answered it. But for some reason I did.
@James: No, I am offering a soft drink, size of your choice.
“Things go better with Coke!”
I remember the first soft drink I had was a Coca-Cola in a small glass bottle for a nickel. Years late, they made kind sized Cokes. On the bottom of the bottle, it always had what town and state that it was bottled in. Some people collected these and even had some from foreign countries. These bottles were returned for deposit. We would go up and down the roads collecting bottles that people had thrown out and take them down to the local store to get some money. Soft drinks taste better when they were in glass bottles instead of this plastic junk and cans. I know that the cups for fountain drinks were smaller then; no huge cups. But people do not have to buy the larger drinks or fill the cups all the way up.
@Doug Mataconis: Well, how about the $6.05 B New York state taxpayers are on the hook for in obesity related costs? Or perhaps the evidence we have that indicates “several behavioral and cognitive biases affecting food consumption decisions”? Oh, and don’t forget!
So any time I make a choice that impacts other people the (city, state, Federal Government) has a right to regulate my activity?
That sounds pretty close to totalitarianism to me.
Doug, although I disagree with your views much if not most of the time, I give you credit for having a functioning brain. You’re not Jenos the Idiot.
With that in mind, do you think your reading of my comment is an accurate or fair interpretation of what I actually wrote?
@Racehorse: I’m having trouble linking your (admittedly halcyon) anecdote with the issue of portion sizing and caloric intake.
Please point me to the political principle that gives the majority the authority to decide what size soda people can drink
The principle is public health, Doug. The sticking point in the instance of this law Bloomberg wants to get passed is whether there IS any meaningful public health benefit to be gotten from making it illegal for stores to sell large-size sugary drinks.
It’s a simple concept, whether you share it or not.
@James: Back that horse up, chump. I never said I supported it; I just saw it as a logical extension of the philosophy behind Bloomberg’s latest seizure (pun intended).
@Jenos Idanian: I’m confused about the pun. Is it the “logical extension” part? Is that a penis joke? Seriously, I’m really not sure.
Moreover, you’ve, uh, opined about the socialized costs of unprotected sex, and then made up this hypothetical condom mandate policy; which is, really, similar to the Affordable Care Act’s no co-pay contraception mandate (which you actually oppose?). And this as exactly what to do with New York state’s $6.08B obesity related costs liability; or the relationship between portion sizing and caloric intake?
I can understand why Mayor Bloomberg might want to prohibit the sale of super-sized sodas at city venues, and in that case I can see a reasonable connection between his preferred public policy and a law regulating the sale of super-sized sodas.
However, I do not believe there is a reasonable basis for legislating a citywide ban on large-sized sodas. Again, a licensed private business should be permitted to sell the sodas that their customers want.
@Kathy Kattenburg: You’re proving my earlier point, Kathy. You seem to believe that “choice” is only important in matters related to sex. In pretty much every other area, the individual should be “protected” from possibly making a bad choice by taking their right to choose away from them and substituting your own judgment (gussied up as “society’s judgment,” which just happens to coincide with your own) in place of theirs. For their own good, of course.
Years ago I knew a very short woman. She had to sit very close to the steering wheel of her car. She was informed by several people in a position to know that should she get into a car accident, her deploying airbag would almost certainly snap her neck and kill her instantly.
She could not legally get that airbag disabled in her car. Because people like you were afraid that some people might make a bad choice, she had to drive around staring at a device that would almost certainly kill her for her own “protection.” She looked into whether or not wearing a seat belt would increase her chances of survival — because the belt made sure she was in just the right spot to be killed, and couldn’t dodge/get thrown clear.
That’s your world, Kathy. Because some make bad choices, no one is allowed to make choices. It’s like you never outgrew kindergarten, and won’t let anyone else outgrow it, either.
Except when it comes to sex, of course. I have my own theories behind that, but I’ll spare you.
I am good with State and Local Gov’t bans on smoking in public places. Claims about ventilation systems for restaurants are lies. Cigarette smoke sitnks.
And I am OK with laws that are supposed to keep the cretans from riding their bicycles on sidewalks. Next one goes near me gets my umbrella in their spokes.
But I sure wish I was free to blow some weed now and then without fear of arrest.
That would be about all it would take for me to be living in Utopia!
I swear I saw “click to edit” again today. Now it is gone again.
@Jenos Idanian: Please, help me understand your indented pun! I want to laugh again.
@James: Such as, say, the gay men I referred to earlier?
On the other hand, lesbians tend to have a lot fewer health issues…
@James: Well, I was just giving an example. Mercury contamination is a legitimate public health concern along with communicable disease and second-hand smoking. I’m sure we could come up with other examples, but we’re talking here about food, not smoke, not toxic chemicals, not communicable diseases.
Um…yes! That’s what no co-pay contraception is all about. As it currently stands, “An HHS official said on Friday that women’s preventive services guidelines apply to women only.” I think that’s wrong, for the reasons explained by “Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute”, who says that:
She could not legally get that airbag disabled in her car. Because people like you were afraid that some people might make a bad choice, she had to drive around staring at a device that would almost certainly kill her for her own “protection.”
And you would prefer that because some people might be killed because they’re too short for the airbag, everyone else should not have the protection of a law that requires car manufacturers to have airbags in all cars?
You’re proving my earlier point, Kathy. You seem to believe that “choice” is only important in matters related to sex.
No, Jenos, you seem to believe that because I support, say, laws banning smoking in public places — which are both enforceable and justified by a compelling public health need — but do not support laws making it illegal to have sex w/o a condom — which would be both unenforceable and unconstitutional — that must mean I only believe in the concept of choice in matters of sex.
That is, to say the least, faulty logic.
@Kathy Kattenburg: So, where else do you support the right of people to choose — replete with the right to make “wrong” choices?
Not eating, not smoking, that’s clear.
@Kathy Kattenburg: Kathy, I’m not quite as dictatorial as you are. I didn’t say “get rid of airbags.” I just noted that federal law made it illegal for my acquaintance to make an informed choice and disable the airbag in her own car. The airbag that would, if it deployed as designed and intended, probably kill her.
Please, if you’re going to address my point, actually address it — is the law that prevents the disabling of airbags a good one or not? Is the “one size fits all” principle of limiting choices for all to those that are “best” for most people morally defensible?
There is a very popular tea in South America called matte. Isn´t it sold in North America? Guarana Syrup is something that I would want to export for the United States, it would be a hit.
Well, the problem is that is very difficult to enforce a ban on unprotected sex. That´s the same problem with sodomy laws, that did not end this practice.
You can have extenders put on your pedals or have an on-off switch put in for your airbags if you are too short.
@James: I think that portion sizing and calories/sugar intake should best be controlled by the individual, not the state. A better plan from Bloomberg would have been more education programs in the schools, communities, churches, and businesses. Long ago, people went to fast food places infrequently. Soft drinks, candy, and other sweets were limited and used in moderation. There is a lesson there somewhere. And I don’t think it is the results of advertising. No one watches the ads anyway, at least I don’t. When a commercial comes on, that is my time to hit the restroom or crank up the popcorn popper (I don’t use microwave popcorn: fake and tasteless). Then I will open a 20 oz soft drink and drink half of it, save the rest for later. I do this about once every two weeks. The rest ot the time it is nuts, cereal, water, and sometimes a cupcake (never store bought).
Doug- What would you propose to reduce obesity knowing that large amounts of these kinds of drinks are thought to be part of the cause.
I asked above:
No one really answered that, but a lot of people pretended a 16 ounce cup size was the end of the world.
I consider that deeply irrational. We have a public health problem, and the deranged among us would rather pretend. They pretend three things really. One is that the obesity thing is minor, stable, not getting worse. Two, they pretend obesity will not have a major budget impact. And three they pretend there that any nudge is iron shackles.
@steve: Well, obviously, depriving everyone of their right to choose their own behaviors because some don’t make the right choices is the only possible answer.
Do you really live in a fantasy land?
Do you really want the least able of your neighbors to design and build his own automobile and take it out on the same road with your family?
Do you have the idiot-libertarian idea that you can just sue him after he crashes and kills a few, and that will make it all better?
Really, it’s the stupid man’s argument, that whatever laws we have in place are just part of our free market, and any new problem cannot be addressed because it would be the end of the world.
This, despite the repeated fact that none of these nudges limits your freedoms!!!!
The nudges only set a default. The cup size is 16 ounces, and it is a feature, not a bug, that you can buy as many of them as you want.
@steve: From your link, Steve:
It’s YOUR car, YOUR life. But you have to ask nicely to get permission, hope they approve, then find a mechanic willing to take the legal risk in actually installing it.
Wow. I asked above:
You just answered yes, that you are that nuts.
@john personna: Do you actually read what is put in front of you?
I said nothing about getting rid of air bags or other standards. Hell, I love my car’s air bags. I hope I never see them, but I’m glad they’re there.
But wouldn’t it be nice if people could choose to weigh their own risks to themselves?
Why do you hate choice? Why don’t you respect others’ rights to make their own decisions — even if that means they might (gasp!) make a mistake or two?
And as for the ‘order two drinks” loophole… just how long do you think that will be left open?
I know some people who like the 20-ounce drinks. It’s just the right size for them. To get enough, they’ll order 2 16-ouncers. Now they’re swigging 32 ounces instead of 20. Won’t that work wonders for their health?
So you’re an idiot who thinks he should be able to pick and choose safety equipment for his car, and then what, we sue you after you crash into us?
No. That would be an idiots math. The average person would be smart enough to drink 16 ounces at that time, and then hold open the option to buy another soda later, if they were again thirsty.
BTW, I notice that you aren’t talking about obese people at all.
Was your imaginary friend with the 20 ounce habit fit or fat? And why?
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the data are indeed lining up that soda consumption correlates with obesity.
Well, I thought it wasn’t a serious question. IMO obesity is a multi-faceted problem that has little to do with political ideology.
Secondly, IMO, what is irrational is proposals like Bloomberg’s that make a show of doing something and little else. I’m not reading through 125+ comments again, but I don’t remember anyone saying that obesity was a minor problem. Rather, the primary criticisms are about the means to combat obesity, not the ends. Obesity is a difficult problem that will require holistic and comprehensive solutions, not counterproductive distractions like like a dumb limited cup size restriction.
Seriously Andy, the science on diet and satiety do support the “cup size” modification.
Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake.
If you think this is “political ideology” maybe you haven’t been following the behavioral economics and diet choice research.
So, where else do you support the right of people to choose — replete with the right to make “wrong” choices?
Not eating, not smoking, that’s clear.
The right to choose exists on both sides, Jenos. That’s what people like you fail to understand. Your right to smoke, to drive without an airbag, to not fasten your seat belt, to talk on your cell phone, etc., are limited by MY right not to breathe in your smoke, MY right, when I am in a car, either as a driver or a passenger, to be protected as much as possible from death or serious injury by laws that require there to be a driver-side airbag, by laws that require passengers in my car to wear a seat belt, by laws that reduce my chances of being killed or injured in a collision with a car whose driver is too busy chatting on a cell phone to look where she or he is going.
I don’t know why you consider that you have a right to light up wherever and whenever you wish, while I have no right to be in the same public space as you unless I’m willing to breathe in the toxins you’re releasing into the air.
You have the right to make any choice you wish to make that does not harm me — or, to put it in public health terms, when your choices have a serious adverse affect on the public at large, then your choices can be circumscribed.
Just to be clear:
The liberal elites can have may 24 ounce soft drink when they pry it out of my dead fingers.
I guess a group that believes that people participate in interstate commerce just by existing believes that what people put in their mouths can be regulated by the government.
I wonder how the progressives will reconcile the idea that pot is legal but that tabacco, transfats, and soft drinks are illegal.
Another jump to siege fantasy.
No one has proposed “soft drinks are illegal,” you’re just nuts enough to think that a serving size is equal to no serving.
Do you not understand that 0 is a special value, and that 16 is well above it?
I just noted that federal law made it illegal for my acquaintance to make an informed choice and disable the airbag in her own car.
If it’s possible, or feasible, for an individual to disable an airbag when that individual is driving, and then for a subsequent driver of that car to ENable it again, if that’s possible to do, then certainly I don’t see anything to object to there. I have no idea, though, if that’s possible to do, and you have a tendency to throw out examples, or hypotheticals, without any regard to whether they would work in the real world. If this would work, fine.
@Jenos- Absent the requirement of seat belts, they would not have been installed on cars in any significant percentage. Not many people were buying them when they were optional. Not many used them until wearing them became mandatory. Their positive effects are not really disputed. At some point, we should probably acknowledge that when there are public safety issues, issues of large costs and goo data available, I think we can weigh costs vs benefits rather than maintain ideologically pure principles.
“I guess a group that believes that people participate in interstate commerce just by existing believes that what people put in their mouths can be regulated by the government.”
Just to clarify, if you remember the broccoli debate, this is not interstate commerce related. The states clearly have very broad powers to regulate commerce well beyond that of the federal government.
“Comments like yours encapsulate quite succinctly why I will never consider myself a “liberal,” “progressive,” or whatever it is you guys call yourselves these days”
That’s OK — comments like yours is what keeps Libertarian’s share of voting population a rounding error. To 99% of the country you are a moral plague.
Here’s some more science:
Portion-control test has surprise
To be honest that says more that restaurants should offer small portions than that they should not offer large:
Vendors, restaurants, patrons, and health providers all have different incentives. The restaurant wants that extra 50 cents or a dollar for a 44 ounce drink, your health be damned. They want superdestroyer to make the choice on that basis: no soda, or 44 ounces.
Bloomberg’s modification may not be perfect, but it has two main advantages. First, it does not prevent anyone from drinking as much soda as they can afford. Second, it cuts to the nudge, and makes 16 oz a normal soda size again, as it was 20 years ago … back when we were not 35.7% obese.
Everyone seems to be missing the real problem here – high fructose corn syrup. Without high fructose corn syrup no one would be able to drink a 32 oz drink. Regular sugar contains both fructose and glucose. Glucose makes you feel full – fructose does not. Without high fructose corn syrup no one would be able to drink a 32 oz beverage. The solution – end corn subsidies, perhaps even tax high fructose corn syrup. I buy Coca Cola from Mexico because it is made from real sugar. There is a reason it comes in 8 oz bottles.
Wait a minute: I was listening to the BBC and the announcer explained that the ban was on portions of soda bigger than HALF A LITER. I´m sorry. In normal countries buying a half a liter of soda is only justifiable if you are going to drink it with your family or group of friends.
That´s no more authoritarian than drug prohibition or most zoning laws.
@Kathy Kattenburg: I’m aware that diet sodas don’t have calories, but they are still correlated with weight gain in every study. It’s indirect, though, because as you rightly point out, you can’t increase weight directly without consuming calories.
Here are some of the theories as to why they cause weight gain: Diet sodas are correlated with both lowering your metabolism (which means you burn less calories) and increasing your desire for sweets (which, unless you can resist it, means you will end up eating more calories than you normally would).
Now whether diet sodas result in less weight gain than regular sodas, that’s another question. And incidentally, there’s no conclusive evidence that it does.
Repeating my caveat from above, though, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Perhaps people who drink diet pop think they get a free pass and can eat or drink some other treat.
With regards to the actual proposition, I’m still on the fence here. My gut reaction is more along the libertarian lines … why is the government spending time on this? Or why is it their business what I drink, etc.? Wouldn’t it be simple to get around this law?
But here’s the little snag for me: it’s not just the fact that the fast food joints are trying to get you to buy more, it’s that they’re using decades of marketing and psychological research in order to try to trick you to buy more. Yes, trick. And that’s where I understand the consumer sometimes needs some protections.
Whether it’s that critical in this case, I’m not yet convinced. It’s too bad it can’t be selectively applied to those most in need of trimming down.
@Kathy Kattenburg: If you’d followed the links on airbags, you’d have seen that it involved a switch on the dashboard. So you can tell at a glance if it’s enabled or disabled, and reverse it in a second.
And for that, you need to explain to the federal government why you want it, get their permission to install it, and then find a mechanic who’s willing to risk the legal liability for installing it.
And all the arguments about the science of obesity are totally irrelevant here. No one is contesting those. The two points being contested are 1) will the proposed solution actually do any good, and — more fundamentally — 2) is it the right of the government to impose such a solution on the people?
Arguing how “it’s for our own good” misses the point.
IF the government can legally limit the number ot 16, then it can limit it to 0. If healthcare costs is a legal reason to control what people eat, then there is no restriction on what the government can control.
It seems that the left is giddy about control people’s behavior. I guess when it is easier to purchase pot or crack instead of fructose, the progressive will be overjoyed.
I find it odd that progressives are now making states rights arguments while spending decades arguing that the states have no rights.
That’s a pretty stupid point. Of course they “can.” Just as they did with absinthe.
The thing is, no policy is actually on the table to ban sodas or corn sugar or etc.
You are just jumping out the window in your excitement, as if they had.
By real point is for all the talk of progressives concerning being social libertarians, it is obvious that progressives are control freaks.
The real driving force of progressives is to control others while being the order giver yourself. How else do you reconcile the idea of controlling soft drinks while deregulating pot?
It is obvious that fringe wingers can’t handle reality. They prefer fantasy. You, of the “unlimited immigration” and “open borders” should know that. Why argue a measured, balanced, policy, when you can just pretend it is not measured or balanced, but is instead absolute? Do you wonder why I consider you a stupid and emotional fringe?
The bottom line for me continues to be the 35.7% obesity. That number is so large, and those people are in such bad straights, that I think drastic measures are called for. And a sixteen ounce soda size is not drastic at all. As André notes above, the rest of the world is shocked that we are sticking more than that in our gob. Doubly shocked, I’m sure, that nutters think a serving size larger than that is a vital human right.
You know, I think the only “opponent” above who even engaged on obesity was Alex, and he only said some general things about “a multi-faceted problem”.
Well, as I’ve noted, food choice is being investigated, and serving size does matter. It is a nudge that each individual soda be 16 ounces, and approximately about 187 calories. If you want to slup down 374 calories of soda in one shot, you still can. Just buy two.
Actually, two would taste better. The first half of a big soda always tastes better, before the ice starts to melt, etc.
I think it’s fairly clear that Doug, Jenos, superdestroyer, et. al. would much rather argue their “principles” and “values” about how “the liberal elites can have may [sic] 24 ounce soft drink when they pry it out of my dead fingers,” than actually approaching the 35.7% obesity rates that just uh, magically, started trending due to a third of the population’s revealed preference to be clinically obese?
BTW, I’m sure you’ve all seen Idiocracy.
Do you understand you are arguing (again) for life on the sofa, with the big-gulp?
You’re probably right. If I wasn’t waiting for my home fries to finish cooking, I probably wouldn’t be posting.
Feel free to limit my fries size. If I want more, I’ll order two.
For the nth time, I don’t dispute the studies that show, generally, that portion size can affect how much people consume and therefore affect obesity. What I dispute is government’s ability to mandate portion sizes by fiat as an effective means of limiting portion sizes and more specifically, that THIS particular rule will ACTUALLY limit consumption of soda and have any effect at all on obesity.
That leaves aside the question of whether it’s appropriate for government to issue portion-size mandates in the first place (as opposed to alternatives like awareness programs), which is a subject reasonable people can disagree on.
I don’t think it’s surprising that I’m confused. You are saying that you understand portion size can be an effective tool, you just reject that any government could ever choose the right portion size?
And you accuse us of bizarre political ideology?
Dude, you aren’t discussing the cup size. You are saying “no, don’t think about cup size, because even though it is science, it is political” or some such thing.
Again, panties are in a bunch because when you drink soda, you would drink it 16 ounces at a time.
That is completely reasonable.
I bet you’d be fine with that, actually. You’d enjoy one 16 ounce soda, and sometimes, not always, go for another.
The “political ideology” biting this discussion isn’t on my end. It’s with people who invent strange reasons why a 20 ounce or 32 ounce shot is necessary for their freedom.
No, you are still confused. I’m sure government could develop science-based general guidelines on portion size that are appropriate for most people – ie. that it could “choose the right portion size” in the abstract.
What I’m skeptical of is governments’s ability to actually enforce such guidelines. To use this proposed NYC rule as an example, what do you do about free refills? What do you do about self-serve drink kiosks at most fast food joints these days? What is stopping a restaurant from giving me a “pitcher” of soda along with the “legal” 16oz cup? Those are just a couple of examples. This rule will be so easy to bypass that it’s not going to be effective in actually reducing consumption.
The sex-selection abortion issue is another example. Even if one thinks the government should ban such abortions, there is the problem of how government can enforce that ban? Similarly, I’m sure government could issue all kinds of portion size mandates but I am very skeptical that such mandates would actually reduce food consumption.
…bitter people clinging to their fries and super-big-gulps.
You’re projecting John. My panties aren’t in a bunch about drink sizes.
FWIW, I don’t think this NYC ban, at least as I understand it, would be all that onerous. It would be stupid, just like the happy meal ban in SF, but not a great threat to our liberty. Every situation is different though, John. That’s why the specifics of these rules are important. You can argue generalities all day long, which you are quite adept at doing, but policymaking is about implementing specifics and the onus is on those advocating for the policy to demonstrate that the proposed rules will actually be effective and not unduly burdensome on the American public. If you want to defend this rule, defend it.
I’ve already said that I find the 16 limit completely reasonable, and that I expect it, at the margin, to reduce total consumption. You’ve already said that you don’t find it onerous.
Why are we still arguing?
Do you think, even though it’s not onerous to you, the size should be larger? Why? A 16 ounce coke has about 187 calories. That’s about 10 percent of a 2000 calorie diet. Do you think the default should be a bigger fraction of daily intake? Why?
How many ounces of soda do you think a typical American, with auto commute and a desk job, should drink daily? How many on special days, in the park, or after exercise?
I personally think most of us should do no sodas most days, but then one, or two, 16 ouncers on special occasions.
I find it reasonable as well, even though I think the size limit is unnecessary government involvement. I don’t believe they are limiting the number of 16 oz. drinks you buy and actually drink. I would think it better, however, to just tax the crap out of sizes bigger than 16 oz. and let the market take care of the problem. Would someone buy a 32 oz $6.00 drink over a 16 oz $2.00 drink?
(personally, when I purchase a small pop for lunch instead of water, I usually don’t finish it.)
You still don’t get what I’m saying. If the restriction itself isn’t going to accomplish what it’s supposed to accomplish, then debating whether or not it should be 16oz or 1oz some other arbitrary amount is a meaningless discussion. You think it will work at the margins, but that’s just a guess, right? Well, my position is that a policy that, in the best case, only works at the margins is dumb policy and a waste of time.
The market would take care of the problem, but not in the way you might think. Ok, so say I own a restaurant. I could just give customers 2 16 oz drinks at the same time for $2.50 or $3 (a two-for one deal). Or, I could bring out a single 16oz glass along with a pitcher of soda. Or I could setup a self-serve soda machine and give everyone unlimited refills for one price. I’m sure there are other ideas I could come up with.
You keep making that up. You say you understand the research, and then you say there is no evidence.
As I’ve said, the buy-multiple is a feature, not a bug.
It’s crucial, actually, both to the freedom thing and the nudge thing.
As was cited on OTB recently:
When the average soda is 42 ounces, of course a 16 ounce cap will reduce total calorie consumption. Simply because not everyone will order 3.
Andy’s bizarre argument seems to be that I have to prove that not everyone will order 3.
Possibly, but then drug prohibition is stupid and wrong, and zoning laws can be stupid too. It’s a matter of where you draw the line.
DRINK BRAWNDO, IT’S GOT WHAT YOU NEED!
I admit that my negative reaction here is knee-jerk, first-principles stuff. That’s not always a bad thing, though. Basically, you have to convince me that extraordinary measures are called for (I’m leaning toward agreement here, re: obesity) AND that a particular measure is likely to work, in order to justify using the power of the state in this manner.
I’m not convinced. I’m more in the “quit subsidizing corn syrup” faction. I think that’s the better solution.
@Andy: No that’s about what I expect. You get that problem anyway with the ban on larger than 16 oz glasses, as free refills are still allowed, or multiple 16 oz glasses are still allowed. The pitcher idea might be allowable under the ban as well.
The tax on larger than 16 oz cups would (mostly) get rid of those sizes without a ban, without necessarily changing consumption habits, which the ban doesn’t do anyway.
No John, I’m not making anything up. I’m saying there’s no evidence that THIS PARTICULAR RESTRICTION will work and I’m pointing out there are many ways to game these rules to make them ineffective.
If you can come up with a regulatory scheme that will actually reduce soda consumption, and not just at the margins, then that research you cite over and over becomes relevant. It’s at that point we can have a science-based discussion about whether 16oz or some other amount is appropriate and consider the merits and cost/benefit of the regulatory scheme. That is not a debate worth having regarding NYC’s stupid proposal because the proposal is so flawed it will have little to no effect regardless of what portion size is mandated.
… just like there is no evidence that THIS PARTICULAR APPLE will fall from a tree …
Yes, Neil said that in the first comment. I wasn’t implying it was a bug, just that the ban wasn’t restricting how much you buy, just the form. After 160+ comments I don’t expect to see many new ideas introduced.
Well .. no one has calculated the calories of that now-average 42 ounce coke … 462?
Geez, I’d rather have a burger.
If you support a particular regulation then it is up to you to demonstrate that it is likely to work and explain what effect it will have, the extent of that effect and also how it would deal with loopholes and rule-gaming. What you’re doing instead is a tautology – you’re simply asserting that because this rule will limit cup sizes then consumption will have to decrease and then hand-waving when anyone points out some of the rather obvious flaws with this proposal that would indicate the reduction in consumption is likely to be low to nonexistent.
More than that, you can’t tell us how much it will decrease consumption, which, conveniently for you perhaps, prevents any sort of objective assessment on the effectiveness of this proposal. When problems with this proposal are pointed out to you, such as the obviousness ways it could be gamed by consumers and drink-providers, you complain that you have to prove that people won’t “order 3” to say nothing of the many other ways to circumvent the rule. Well, sorry, but if you want people to support this proposal and you want people to think that it will be effective, then it’s incumbent on you as a supporter to explain such things.
Now, if your answers to this is essentially, “I don’t know and we won’t know what this proposal will do until after we implement it and see what happens” then that is at least an honest argument, but one you haven’t yet made.
Andy, you really do need to show that everyone would buy 3 sodas. Seriously.
@john personna: John, you really need to show how much consumption would be reduced by this proposal. Seriously.
Seriously? You won’t believe a 16 ounce cup, instead of a 44+ ounce cup will reduce consumption until someone calculates a number for you?
The fact that every single customer would have to buy 3 cups, every time, to reach the current 42 ounce average doesn’t do it for you?
For extra credit, explain the phrase “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” and how it relates to drink size.
@Andy: I’m not John, but:
Not sure why that is a reply to me, I’m not really (not strongly anyway) against the ban. It would mostly put only one 16 oz drink in someones hand at a time, and probably would reduce the amount most people drink, while not really restricting the truly gluttonous.
I was just trying for “new ideas”
If one is going to implement a policy, one should have some idea of what the effects of the policy will be. You keep insisting that consumption will be reduced but you refuse to define by how much, and won’t even provide a ballpark figure. Why don’t you just admit that you have no idea instead of continuing with the tautological argument that a ban on large cup sizes simply must reduce consumption.
The real world isn’t a controlled academic study. Restaurants will come up with clever ways to skirt the ban. Some may simply ignore it. Some people may indeed, buy three drinks. Others may only buy one smaller drink, but make up for it with more drinks later. Others may end up replacing soft drink calories with calories from other sources – ie. if there is not 44oz of coke in their stomach, then there might be an extra hot dog. Or if that liquid isn’t in their stomach, maybe they’ll eat all their fries instead of just half. All these things will tend to subvert the purpose of the rule, which is to reduce caloric intake and thereby reduce obesity. You are thinking in terms of linear effects (a rule mandating reduction of x must result in a reduction in z), but the real world often doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, even, the opposite is true.
And it’s not like we don’t have evidence of these kinds of effects. People made the same linear arguments supporting the ban on toys with happy meals. Things there didn’t turn out quite like supporters expected. In finance, Institutional investors were required to only invest in AAA rated vehicles to ensure they invested safely. However, that gave the ratings agencies the incentive to give AAA ratings to risky investments which lost pension funds a lot of money. There are plenty of examples out there.
Again, if you can craft a rule or law that isn’t easily avoided, has reasonable compliance costs,and has a good chance to reduce actual sugared drink consumption by non-trivial amounts, then that’s a potential candidate for a good regulation. This NYC proposal is nowhere even close.
From California (ban on Happy Meals) to New York, we are quickly becoming the United Socialist States of America, with people like Bloomberg trying to tell us what and how much to eat.
If you’d followed the links on airbags, you’d have seen that it involved a switch on the dashboard. So you can tell at a glance if it’s enabled or disabled, and reverse it in a second.
So what’s the problem, then?
@Kathy Kattenburg: I can explain it to you, but I’ll be damned if I can understand it for you.
To get that switch, first you have to convince the federal government that you really, really need it. Then you need to find a qualified mechanic who will install it, knowing full well that if anything ever goes slightly wrong with that car, he can almost guarantee he’ll be sued for putting in that switch. THEN you can have it in your own car, and take responsibility for yourself.
What a fucking idiot. I’m sure New York has bigger problems.
Is there an election on the horizon, whose support is he trying to secure with this token idiocy.
I think “The People” should be making the decisions, and start with limiting the term for mayor to 4 years, and then limit the size of the President’s airplane to 737.
I find it offensive that an elected official deems himself the “Soda-size Czar.” All of you liberal pinheads love it when someone tells you that drinking a large soda is responsible for your over-sized rears and must be banned, but find it offensive when someone asks that you engage in protected sex to help guard against life-taking diseases like AIDS and Syphillis, Gonorrhea. Here’s an idea, I won’t require you to pay for my health care while I drink all the f’ ing soda I wish, and you go back to minding your own damn business.