A supersize ban on fizzy drinks
In 2009 I visited New York to meet public health professionals to find out more about their health promoting programmes and interventions. I was intrigued by their influence on local politicians and how they managed to challenge the power of industry lobbyists.
This was a year after the Board of Health voted to phase out artificial trans-fats from restaurants. Since then, New York has also introduced an outdoor smoking ban and menu labeling takes place in restaurants.Today we learned that Mayor Bloomberg is to encourage a ban on super sized, drinks. We'll come back to public health law and policy in a future blog but for now....
What is supersize?
I remember reading an article about a riot on a basketball court during an NBA match. A fan poured his drink over one of the players and this led to further violence. The sports journalist reporting in a British newspaper explained the seriousness of the initial act by highlighting the size of the offending weapon and its contents. Clearly the container was more bucket sized rather than the size of the vessel presented by the lovely lady on the left. A supersize drink is likely to be over 1 litre. That's a lot of soaking and a serious amount of provocation. So perhaps rioting is one concern for Mayor Bloomberg but the proposed ban is incorporated into a series of measures to prevent obesity.
What's the issue with drinks high in sugar?
The calories in drinks are considered 'empty.' We do not make the necessary adjustment to our overall calorie intake after consuming a drink. 'Empty calories' may lead to weight gain. Friend and adviser Professor Janice Thompson highlights this in her book 'Nutrition An Applied Approach.' She describes how Americans take in 21% of their calories from beverages.
In the UK, soft drinks consumption in 2011 was valued at just under £14 billion. (click on link to read report by the Soft Drinks Association). This includes water, juice and carbonated drinks. Although soft drinks manufacturers are concerned about health policy interventions such as this, the industry seems to be doing quite well here also with a rise in consumption of sports and energy drinks.
Do Ban's work?
Some consider the ban to be a 'distraction.' I think it will be interesting to find out what other measures are being recommended. There is a wider concern around fast food especially in areas where access to healthier options are restricted. Trying to understand why people turn to fast-food in the first place can help us think about what other factors influence food choice. I'm reminded of a series of quotes in the 'Spirit Level' by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. They quoted from the Wall Street Journal's Deadly Diet series.
'I turned to Pepsi - it was like a drug for me. I couldn't function without it. I used to wake up with a Pepsi in my hand. A three-liter bottle would just see me through the day.'
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