June 3 2012

Sugar isn't the enemy - Mayor Bloomberg must stop his meddling

NY Daily News

Julie Gunlock

He started with cigarettes, then moved on to trans fats and salt. Now Mayor Bloomberg is at it again, waging war against that evil of evils known as soda.

Just in time for the hot summer months, the mayor on Wednesday announced plans to ban the sale of sodas, energy drinks, sweetened iced teas and other sugary beverages at sizes larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and food carts (they will still be available in supermarkets and bodegas).

Looks like New Yorkers will have to pay for two drinks this summer if they want to quench their thirst and their sweet tooth at the same time. 

Bloomberg says this is all about the evidence: Soda is making waistlines bigger, he insists, and it’s time to attack the culprit. But it’s entirely fair to ask if this ban is based on research or ideology. If Bloomberg objectively looked at the numbers, he would learn that soda sales have fallen for the last seven years and bottled water sales are rising.

As for those other sugary drinks that disgust him so, according to the National Cancer Institute’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control health data, in total, those drinks only account for a small fraction of the average American’s overall calorie total.

So, from where, exactly, do the majority of calories consumed by Americans come? It’s the food on your plate, not the soda in your can.

The plain truth: Americans eat too much. They are not drinking themselves into a larger pant size; they are eating too much food and getting too little exercise. So while Bloomberg may have a laudable goal, he’s chosen an erroneous approach.

Bloomberg might also note the latest research conducted on families living under the poverty line — the demographic with the highest rates of obesity and biggest target of these nanny-state measures. That research, by well-respected anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, found that eight in ten low-income families make dinner at home at least five times a week.

As such, banning large sodas in restaurants and movie theaters and at the ballpark won’t change the amount of sugary beverages the poor consume.

The Share Our Strength data is backed by a national study conducted by the University of California at Davis Medical School, which examined the eating habits of 5,000 people across the country. It found that, in contrast to the stereotype that only the poor resort to eating fast food, as one’s income increased, so did his or her hunger for fast food and beverages.

Then again, Bloomberg has shown similar misjudgment in the past. The mayor’s guiding principle is “do as I say, not as I do.” From his well-documented love of overly salting his food while attacking salt to publicly admitting he likes drinking soda on hot days, the nanny-in-chief has proven he’s no authority on how anyone should eat or drink. Yet he continues, unembarrassed, in his crusade to micromanage the food choices of others.

These measures aren’t going to make us thinner. They’re just going to leave citizens with fewer options and higher food prices (not to mention the now added annoyance of having to buy two sodas at the movie theater to help get you through that bucket of popcorn!).

New Yorkers are known for their independence and their brash resistance to such heavyhanded efforts. It looks like it might be time to remind Mayor Bloomberg just whom he represents.

Gunlock is the director of Women for Food Freedom and Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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