Diabetes and the New York Soda Ban


I just stumbled across this video editorial in the New York Times about Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugary sodas bigger than 16 ounces. It brought to mind the heated debate that followed Jessica’s post about the “diabetes ice cream social,” which encouraged diabetics around the world to celebrate their disease — or at least stick it to anyone who says that a malfunctioning pancreas need limit one’s intake of refined carbohydrates — by indulging in a favorite scoop.

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but it seems that we at A Sweet Life have not yet engaged in a discussion specifically on Bloomberg’s plan. The basic idea is that it’d be forbidden to sell sugary sodas in sizes over 16 ounces. But within that simple idea hide a host of exemptions. Juice wouldn’t count. Neither would coffee (since you add the sugar yourself). You could get as many refills as you’d like, or simply buy two 16-ounce cups to satisfy your 32-ounce craving. Also, only establishments regulated by the city would be affected, so even if you couldn’t buy your super-sized soda at McDonald’s, you could go across the street to buy it at Dunkin’ Donuts. In short, anyone who thinks the ban would actually prohibit you from ingesting sugar has not read the details.

In the video editorial, filmmaker Casey Neistat shows a clip from an interview with Bloomberg in which he states that the purpose of the ban is simply to “force people to understand” the amount of sugar they’re consuming. And therein lies what people object most vigorously to: the idea of the government “forcing” us to do anything.

I tend to have libertarian leanings, and in general prefer to have the government leave me to make my own decisions. But I have to say, this is a case in which I disagree. When Neistat shows sodas next to an equivalent number of sugar cubes, it’s horrifying. When I look around me in Philadelphia, I’m struck by just how obese many of us are. My parents recently took a trip to North Carolina and reported that one of the restaurants they ate at had to order an entire new set of chairs because the ones they had no longer could accommodate their patrons’ bottoms — in fact, my endocrinologist’s office here in Philadelphia has several double-width seats. Obesity is a national problem — and, as Karmel once pointed out, the more taxpayer-subsidized our healthcare system becomes, the more my bottom becomes your business. (Okay, she didn’t put it quite like that — but the point is that if I’m paying for your obesity-related health problem, then I have a right to care about the crap you’re putting in your mouth.)

Now, granted, I have a strong Bloomberg bias (any politician who’s so apolitical that he recoils at the idea of kissing a baby earns a soft spot in my heart). But considering the fact that the so-called “ban” wouldn’t really prevent anyone from drinking what they choose — considering that the biggest downside of the rule is to make you actually *think* for a second before sucking down a Big Gulp — I’m surprised at the amount of controversy it’s provoked. Given the impending healthcare crisis of obesity, Americans need to be thinking — about what we ourselves eat, and about how we’re going to deal with other people’s irresponsible decisions. Sure, it’d be better to engage in that debate of our own accord, but sometimes it takes a little push. If the soda ban provides the impetus, then I’m all for it.

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PennySteve FisherErnestine S. BonicelliBeverlyKimm Recent comment authors
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I was diagnosed three months ago. In the interval I have met numerous 300+ lb diabetics who tell me “Eat anything you want & just take more insulin.”  So much info on websites seems oriented around “Yes You Can Eat Pastries & Ice Cream & Indulge Just Like Before You Were Diagnosed” including a huge number of internet ads for indulging in sweet non-nutritious snack food. All that is very scary in a way that makes me feel paranoid. Are pharmaceutical companies promoting the overindulgence in order to sell medication? The ethical, serious websites that “speak reality” are few and far… Read more »

Steve Fisher
Steve Fisher

These, “We know best,” programs may/might help in the short term.  But, as others have expressed, getting folks to choose better foods and exercise is the real solution.  The Mayors program CONTROLS people, but does not convert people.  Perhaps we need to be controlled long enough to get the picture and make our own changes.

Ernestine S. Bonicelli
Ernestine S. Bonicelli

I absolutely disagree in the strongest terms.  If the government had minded its own business to start with, nobody would be paying for anybody else’s health care, everybody would pay for their own.  In the second place, no elected official has any right to ban anything.  There are laws.  Who in the devil does this man think he is, God?  He is an arrogant, wannabe dictator is what he is.   


Most of the push back on bans/taxes on sugary sodas is coming from people paid by the companies that manufacture these sodas and make a ton of money on them. I work for a health department and we did an op-ed piece on the impact of adding a tax to sugary sodas. The main letters to the editor saying this would not work came from nutritionists who admitted that they were contractors to soda companies. Sure it will work. Take a look at what happened with smoking. As cigarette taxes were increased and bans on smoking in public places were… Read more »


How easily, no matter how important you believe the issue to be, so many Americans are willing to give up freedoms.  No thank you – I do not want Big Brother telling the people of this country (or an individual city or state) what they can or cannot consume.  Does the word “freedom” actually mean anything anymore?  The blood of our forefathers is on the hands of all who so willingly throw away that for which they worked, lived, and sometimes died. In the immortal words of Patrick Henry, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be… Read more »


Cheryl, I do not see any suggestion in Catherine’s post that bigotry is being promoted.  As I said in my previous comment, I think it is important that society stops blaming an overweight person for being overweight.  However, I strongly disagree with you that the solution to obesity is to make larger furniture.  And while the same diseases may exist in fat and thin alike, obesity does exacerbate many conditions – including heart disease and diabetes.  


While I agree that there is no possible way that drinking copious amounts of soda is healthy, where is the evidence that a ban like this will do anything to improve anyone’s health? Yes, more people can be categorized as obese than in the past but obesity is not a disease it is simply one of the range of body shapes humans come in.  Although you, as many others before you, assert that “the more taxpayer-subsidized our healthcare system becomes, the more my bottom becomes your business” there is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, when the Kinsey… Read more »


Hi Catherine,
“If the soda ban provides the impetus, then I’m all for it.” Agreed!
This was basically our opinion too in the editorial we did on the soda ban we did back in June:

Nathan Shackelford

Hmmm… we call it junk food. I haven’t met many people who disagree with the label, or think that sugar is harmless. I’d like to bring the purveyors of junk food into the conversation. If the soda sellers had maintained the concept of a serving, we wouldn’t be here, talking about excessive empty calories from corn syrup suspended in liquid. I think portions are an important factor, and serving up quadruple servings in a single container just seems like a silly idea when you think about it.  A lot of governments around the world have made small tweaks to local… Read more »


I think, rather than looking at the ban as an all or nothing proposition on sugar and obesity, it serves as a starting point. As jess says, it’s hard not to eat the wrong food. The soda ban makes it a little harder to eat the wrong food.

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