The health board of New York City heard hours of arguments in favor and against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s highly controversial proposal to ban the sale of sugary drinks in portions larger than 16 ounces.
Medical professionals hailed Bloomberg’s ban as an appropriate move to protect the public from the dangers of the huge numbers of empty calories found in these drinks which are being pushed citizens by unscrupulous members of the soft-drink industry. Medical and health experts compare the tactics of the soft-drink industry to those of the tobacco industry, with equally dangerous results.
"Soda in large amounts is metabolically toxic," said Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. "It's obvious that this is the right thing to do."
According to one doctor the consumption of large quantities of sugary drinks can increase the risk of developing diabetes and other serious illnesses associated with obesity. As he put it, calorie-packed beverages are responsible for a large percentage of "massive suffering and premature death" in this country.
But health professionals were not the only ones presenting their viewpoints at Tuesday’s hearing. City Councilman Daniel Halloran III said Bloomberg’s proposal was just a “feel-good placebo” which will do little to improve anyone’s health but will hurt small businesses. Halloran wondered if a law to limit the portion size of a serving of steak will be the Mayor’s next idea.
Councilman Oliver Koppell said the ban was “a clear overreaching of government into people's everyday lives. This infringement on the rights of New Yorkers leads us to ask what will be banned next?"
Another critic of the ban, Joy Dubost, a nutritionist who is employed by the National Restaurant Association declared that there is no scientific evidence with which to support the ban.
"It's not reasonable to blame or cite one product," she said, adding that the proposal "produces a false sense of accomplishment in the fight against obesity."
Other critics wondered why the City was making such a big deal of sugary drinks when the City’s schoolchildren do not have gym classes, perhaps a more reasonable way to fight obesity.
The proposal only needs the approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s appointed Board of Health to go into effect. However those in opposition can still sue to stop the ban or they can try and convince legislators to prevent the ban from taking effect.
September 13th is the day the board is scheduled to vote on the proposal.