First They Came For My Big Gulp, And I Said Nothing

If you’re wondering what kind of big issues and Americans Elect candidate would tackle, here you go:

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.

Stupid, paternalistic, and completely unenforceable. My old platoon sergeant once told me that when it comes to keeping the guys in line, you never make a rule you won’t enforce, you never make a rule you can’t enforce, and you never make a rule you shouldn’t enforce. This new ban fails on at least the first two.

Bloomberg does know that two 16 ounce cokes equals one 32 ounce supersized coke, right? So what is to stop people from ordering two beverages instead of one? Will we have to have new limits on the number of beverages allowed to be sold per person? And what about restaurants and stores that allow you to fill your beverage yourself- will we have to hire monitors to watch who is now pouring what? And why are fruit juices exempt? Does he not realize how much sugar is in your average over the counter orange juice and apple juice- my goodness, they are worse than soda, because with a soda you know you are getting a gut bomb. With fruit juices, you may thing you are drinking healthfully, but you are getting the same amount of sugar as if you were guzzling coke.

And I’ll stop now, because I have already given this stupid proposal more thought than it merits. And I am sensitive to his concerns- the diabesity epidemic in this country is going to be crippling if we do not get it under control. But this won’t do anything to stop it.

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130 replies
  1. 1
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Bloomberg is a fascist, plain and simple. So far, he’s kept the public’s approval by limiting his Nazi urges to things that most people don’t like.

    He’s now run out of those things and is starting in on his personal pet peeves. This won’t end well for anyone.

  2. 2
    jibeaux says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty dumb. Saw it on facebook, and the first comment was “so I’ll buy two mediums. Twice the waste. Your move, Bloomberg.” The other story that occurred to me was about a woman who got some sort of weight loss surgery — gastric bypass or lap band, maybe, don’t know. But was restricted to a liquid diet for a certain number of weeks afterwards. She GAINED weight after her WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY because all she ate were take-out milkshakes.
    It’s pretty silly.

  3. 3
    Brachiator says:

    And I’ll stop now, because I have already given this stupid proposal more thought than it merits. And I am sensitive to his concerns- the diabesity epidemic in this country is going to be crippling if we do not get it under control. But this won’t do anything to stop it.

    Yep. You nailed it.

    Reminds me of a story a couple of years ago about a school in the UK banning fried foods, sugary foods and other snacks. Soon, a thriving black market developed as older kids would go over the wall, buy the junk that other kids wanted, and would sell it at reasonable prices.

    The war on food. Like the war on drugs with more stupid.

  4. 4
    Mark S. says:

    What an incredibly stupid law.

  5. 5
    Schlemizel says:

    No John, this the perfect thing to do.
    It allows the nuts to whine about the nanny state
    It does not harm the soda companies
    It does not hinder the growing (pun intended) problem Americans have
    It allows Doomberg to pretend he tried

    It is rearranging a mockup of the deckchairs on the Titanic

  6. 6
    MattF says:

    There’s something about being Mayor of New York. It can start well, but it rarely ends well.

  7. 7
    Fair Economist says:

    Actually this will indeed work. If the small/medium/large options are 8/16/24 oz people will buy a lot more on average than if they are 8/12/16. Our ability to generate plans and forecast consequences is very limited in comparison to what the options are and so we generally make decision based on simple heuristics or general conventions. When ordering a drink, it tends to be “I’ll have a medium”.

    Nobody ever needs a sugared drink over 16 oz anyway – it’s an enormous amount of calories. If you need that much fluid (quite rare if you’re ordering at McDonalds or wherever) you should be drinking water. People basically know this, and virtualy nobody will order over 16 oz *if they think about it*. If the large is 24 and someone thinks “I deserve a treat” they may well get the large. They’re not going to think “gee, I need an extra 200 calories – I’ll get two mediums”.

    In the end the point of this rule is that you can do something stupid *but you have to think about it and do it deliberately*. That is a big protection.

  8. 8
    Karounie says:

    I think the ban proposal has more to do with shifting perception than keeping sugar out of people’s systems directly – and that’s not such a bad thing. In other words, when you go to a movie theater and buy “a soda” you then take what they give you and accept that that is a soda. If that thing were water-glass-sized, rather than gallon-of-milk-sized you would come to accept that drinking “a soda” meant drinking 16 oz and that more meant deliberately buying a second soda. Does that make sense?
    (I see Fair Economist is on same page as I am.)

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    FTD nailed it in his first sentence.

    All this does is encourage people to circumvent it.

    And John’s platoon sergeant was a wise man. I learned a great deal from my first platoon sergeant.

  10. 10
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    Ban HFCS at it’s source, on a national level. If you are going to ban something. It is the biggest culprit and killer food or drink out there, imo. The Twinkie Lobby would go nuts, but couldn’t top the nuttyness of the government taking such a step in the first place. Just one more spiral in a dying society, literalee in this case, that we might as well all pig out together, rather than pig out individually

    fuck it, I can’t spell literalee, and are too lazy to learn how, so might as well fuck it up royalee.

  11. 11
    Brachiator says:

    Also, too, don’t we need to do something about addictive computer games?

    Some colleagues come in tired and listless because they spend all night playing Diablo III. Surely, this is the tip of the iceberg of a major gameplay epidemic.

    Parenthetically, some of these are our tech support guys, and even when they are exhausted from Diablo play, they are worth more than a lot of other techies I have worked with before. In an odd, way, the gameplay actually refreshes them.

  12. 12
    taylormattd says:

    That’s it, I’M VOTING FOR RON PAUL

  13. 13
    Schlemizel says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    Between my wife & I we know 6 people who have had stomach reduction surgery. 4 of them have really horrible medical complications caused by the reduction and only 1 of them has maintained the weight loss (although I’ll give half credit to another who is only about half as overweight as she was).

    I’d like to see some national studies – I have a feeling our experience is not that unusual and a lot of people are paying an incredibly high price for nothing.

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    If you are SERIOUS about going after the obesity and diabetes problem in this country, you go after the Ferengi assholes at Archer Daniels Midland who push high fructose corn syrup.

    But you’ll NEVER see a Ferengi shitstain like Bloomberg going after his own tribe. NEVER.

  15. 15
    PeakVT says:

    Dunno about NY, but in VT there’s no sales tax on food. I would classify soda and other sugar-added drinks as not-food, and leave the efforts to regulate the stuff there.

  16. 16
    Keith says:

    If they’re gonna ban large sodas for something, why not make it the phosphoric acid? It’s like industrial waste being fed to us for tanginess.

  17. 17
    Schlemizel says:

    @taylormattd:
    Great idea! we’ll all be so busy smoking our now legal pot that nobody will ever think of eating! 8-{D

  18. 18
    jibeaux says:

    @taylormattd: Ah, it’s not the feds, though. He will be of no assistance.

  19. 19
    Fair Economist says:

    Anybody who wants to learn how much you can change behavior just by re-organizing menus and portion sizes (which is: a lot) should read “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Thaler and Sunstein or “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Sunstein.

  20. 20
    gaz says:

    What the fuck ever happened to using the tax code to incentivize good behavior? I’m not even sure I’d agree with it then, but at least it would be less stupid than an outright ban.

    Basically I’m in agreement with John on this one, but I think their is at least a modicum of wiggle room for the argument that under a universal health care system, certain behaviors will cause a greater burden to us all.

    In any case, an outright ban? Stupid, IMO.

  21. 21
    Maude says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:
    Bloomberg needs to go away, now. He wants to make sure people on Food Stamps don’t buy soda.
    If one of his pet peeves is poor people, is he going to wipe them out?
    He just bought his 11th house.
    He is a despicable little man.
    Leave people alone.

  22. 22
    Jebediah says:

    Diabesity!

    Whether that was a typo or a deliberate coinage, I like it. (The neologism, not the conditions it references.)

  23. 23
    Fair Economist says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    FTD nailed it in his first sentence.
    All this does is encourage people to circumvent it.

    Absolutely not. As I mentioned before, if the options are 8/16/24 a lot of people will order the large. If the options are 8/12/16, even with prices properly adjusted, very few will order two mediums.

  24. 24
    slag says:

    This proposed law does seem rather random. On the plus side, Jackson Mississippi public school district employees will no longer have the authority to handcuff children to desks:

    The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, says all district employees will stop handcuffing students younger than 13, and can only handcuff older students for crimes. In no case will employees shackle a student to a fixed object such as a railing, a pole, a desk or a chair.

    In America, you gotta take the good with the bad. Love it or leave it, they tell me. Or, at least, that’s what they tell me when they are in charge.

  25. 25
    Schlemizel says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    Probably shouldn’t use “Bloomberg” and “tribe” in the same sentence – could be misinterpreted.

    @Keith:
    That came up years ago when I worked with a chem eng – I told him there was phosphoric acid in his soda and he didn’t believe me even after I showed him the label. He looked into it & found that not only is it a legal food additive there is no maximum amount! You could actually sell it straight as a drink & not violate the law.

  26. 26
    donnah says:

    Huh. Milkshakes and alcoholic beverages have plenty of calories, and diet soda makes you crave more sugar, so the whole premise is flawed. Sounds like he’s trying to sell the sizzle, not the steak.

  27. 27
    Fair Economist says:

    @Brachiator:

    Reminds me of a story a couple of years ago about a school in the UK banning fried foods, sugary foods and other snacks. Soon, a thriving black market developed as older kids would go over the wall, buy the junk that other kids wanted, and would sell it at reasonable prices.

    How is this analogous? There’s no restrictions on what’s served. You can still order as much sugared drink as you want. You just look like more of an idiot when doing it.

  28. 28
    Tom65 says:

    Reminds me of college, when the administration banned “multi-quart containers”. Whatever, we just bought cases instead.

  29. 29
    Fnarf says:

    The stupidest part of this is the exemption for “fruit juice”, which is never in situations like this actually fruit juice, but a HFCS concoction that has MORE sugar in it than soda pop. “10% juice”, it says. And even when it’s “100% juice”, it’s not the juice it says on the front; it’s apple and pear and white grape. Seriously — read a label. More sugar than Coke.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Fair Economist:

    Sorry, but Bloomberg IS a fascist.

    If your’e serious about obesity and diabetes, you go after HFCS.

    Bloomberg is not serious. He will not go after his fellow Ferengi shitstains at ADM and ConAgra. No way, no how.

  31. 31
    MikeJ says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Probably shouldn’t use “Bloomberg” and “tribe” in the same sentence – could be misinterpreted.

    I’d skip the Ferengi thing for the same reason.

  32. 32
    Jay C says:

    A couple of points:

    1) John, I think this has little or nothing to do with Americans Elect: Bloomberg has been a Food Fascist for years – way before the AE circle-jerk ginned up – this is, I think, a purely local issue, and a purely personal fetish by Mayor Mike. Unfortunately, the Mayor of New York is something like an elected dictator; and not much can be done about these idiotic crusades…

    2) OTOH, obesity/diabetes – aggravated, I’m sure, by our crappy national eating habits – IS a major health problem in this country: you can’t really fault Bloomberg for wanting to do something about it: but as usual, his solution – nitpicky nanny-state (and probably unenforceable) overregulation sucks.

  33. 33
    danimal says:

    This is an amazingly stupid idea. I could make an argument for a small tax on larger drinks, but a ban is just plain stupid. The only thing this proposal will do is confirm the “nanny-staters” preconceptions about liberal Dems. And Bloomberg isn’t even a Dem (is he GOP or Ind. these days?).

    If I’m going to be tarred by association by the neanderthals of the right with their Koch (and soon, I’m sure, Coke) mega-dollars, I’d really like a better issue than “no carbonated drinks over 16 oz.” Better issue selection, please.

  34. 34
    Heliopause says:

    A hobbit billionaire from New York who wants to pry the Big Gulp from your cold, dead fingers would be just the guy to unite the different regions of our republic. I can practically taste the “draft Bloomberg” bacon sizzling in the diners of Oklahoma and Missouri. From the ranches of Wyoming to the NASCAR tracks of Alabama, this is the type of bold leadership the people are looking for.

  35. 35
    Fair Economist says:

    @donnah:

    Huh. Milkshakes and alcoholic beverages have plenty of calories, and diet soda makes you crave more sugar, so the whole premise is flawed. Sounds like he’s trying to sell the sizzle, not the steak.

    That’s all true, but my interpretation is that he’s aiming for a restriction that can be done. Most people don’t know about the diet soda business; milkshakes do have nutrition (not just empty calories) and alcoholic beverages are a big profit center (plus, sometimes, people really are trying to get drunk). So the focus is on something which you can’t muster any argument at all for needing – sugared drinks beyond 16 oz.

  36. 36
    lol says:

    Reminds me of the people that argued bag fees were pointless because it’s not very much money on top of groceries. It turns out even a small charge is enough to push people towards using reusable bags or not using any at all. Yes, you can still get your plastic bags but you’ll have to explicitly make the decision to get them instead of simply being handed them.

    The point is to change the default. Yes, you *can* just order two large sodas to get around the limit, but the vast majority of people will not. The default will be an amount much closer to what they actually want, instead of a larger amount (which sounded like a “better deal”) that they consume the entirety of simply because they’ve already bought it.

    People are lazy. Even a small amount of effort discourages bad behavior.

  37. 37
    Thoughtcrime says:

    This is a slap in the face of NJ Governor Crisco.

  38. 38
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Or Bloomberg could push for ending subsidies on corn and raise the minimum wage to where more families could afford fruits, make it so that parents aren’t working so long that it’s easier to buy takeout, and stop cutting things like after school programs that would give kids something to do other than sitting around.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  39. 39
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Fnarf:

    It’s all about the appearance of “doing something” without actually penalizing the people who profit from the sale of these beverages.

    Bloomberg will never harm his fellow Ferengi. Ever.

  40. 40
    Schlemizel says:

    @MikeJ:
    Thats sort of funny because I never saw the Ferrengi=jew thing until I read a thing about it online a few months ago. I hope it was accidental on the creators part because they didn’t think of it. I still like the image of a race that puts business ahead of all else but I guess we have to be careful about who we use it with

  41. 41
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MikeJ:

    I’ll keep using it, because it describes these assholes who put profit above any other possible value perfectly.

    It’s got nothing to do with Bloomberg’s nominal religion. It has everything to do with his unfettered, immoral greed.

  42. 42
    Punchy says:

    But what size of pop does Sullivan drink?

  43. 43
    burnspbesq says:

    Will we have to have new limits on the number of beverages allowed to be sold per person?

    That’s not new. Bought beer at a stadium or arena in the last 20 years?

  44. 44

    Remember when the Daily Show made fun of the law that South Carolina required liquor to be sold in mini bottles?

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/wa.....-amendment

    Yeah, so that’s basically NYC coming soon.

  45. 45
    ThresherK says:

    @Fair Economist: In a book on the history of McDonald’s (pre-internet, no cite) I remember the larger bag fries being suggested by a franchisee who saw that people who wanted more fries would not order two bags of french fries.

    It simply wasn’t done.

    The larger bag was introduced, and the sheer amount of fries being sold went up. (There is also the study about how people will consume more from a larger vessel regardless of how hungry they are.)

    Not saying this is a cureall. But it’s not one of those “teach abstinence to stop teens’ sex drives” fantasies about human behavior.

  46. 46
    Quincy says:

    I’m kind of for this. Fair Economist’s points about portion control are correct. Yes it seems paternalistic, but we have major corporations that spend big money studying the behavioral effects of portion sizes and then using that information to manipulate all of us into consuming more calories than our bodies can take. Their bottom lines depend on this. We can either count on the population being well-informed and self-disciplined enough to resist, or we can collectively use the one major entity we have on our side, the government, to deny those corporations some of their most effective tools.

  47. 47
    PurpleGirl says:

    @PeakVT: An earlier idea Bloomberg had was to tax sugary drinks. The idea was roundly shot down by the beverage industry. I think they’ll succeed in killing this one too.

  48. 48
    Q.Q. Moar says:

    “without actually penalizing the people who profit from the sale of these beverages.” Well, a consortium of sugary-drink sellers has already come out against Bloomberg’s plan so, wrong on that count. It’s apparent that Mistah Cole did not read the linked article, which addresses the points he raised about ordering two drinks, etc.

  49. 49
    Fair Economist says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Sorry, but Bloomberg IS a fascist.
    If your’e serious about obesity and diabetes, you go after HFCS.
    Bloomberg is not serious. He will not go after his fellow Ferengi shitstains at ADM and ConAgra. No way, no how.

    I know this is Balloon Juice, but there is a *wee* bit of ethical distance between requiring somebody to order 2 drinks to get 24 oz of Coke and, oh, mass murder in concentration camps.

    Bloomberg is hardly a model of socialist activism, but he did step on some big business toes with the trans-fats ban. NY led the country on that one. So there is a point where Bloomberg will put public health over corporate profit, and I’m glad for that, even if the threshold is rather high.

  50. 50
    jl says:

    ” you never make a rule you won’t enforce, you never make a rule you can’t enforce, and you never make a rule you shouldn’t enforce. ”

    Last time Cole gave this rule, it included ‘never make a rule that will make you will look like an idiot if you enforce it”

    I spend some time doing statistics on this kind of stuff, more from the tax policy end. I have no idea if this will work or not, or whether people will substitute into fake milkshakes or fruit juice, or buy to smaller sizes, or the industry will strategically size and price their product in a way that will cancel any effect.

    But I think it will strike most people as a stupid nosy rule, and that certainly counts against it.

    The more I work on this stuff, it seems like a lot of social policies in the US are nibbling very small, imperceptible chunks off the edges of bigger social problems.

    Walkable neighborhoods with a larger variety of retail for healthy food, places for kids to play, after school programs, anything to increase physical activity of kids and adults would do a lot more to solve the problem. Some of those policies might upset the standard corporate way of doing business in our current Amercia. Will people like Bloomberg do anything to support more significant policies? That is my question.

    You see the same effort at nibbling around the edges wrt policies that will not make much difference in the context of our current collapsing health insurance and provision system.

    /cynical

  51. 51
    Zach says:

    They should just levy a price adjustment on all prepared food that adjusts the price to eliminate the effects of all agricultural subsidies for ingredients that exceed some fraction of the product. So the price of products containing high concentrations of corn syrup and beet sugar would increase (artificially low price because of subsidies) and the price of products containing cane sugar would decrease (artificially high because of trade restrictions)*. The net result would be that things with super high concentrations of sugar would increase in price.

    * I think; not an expert on this stuff.

  52. 52
    SatanicPanic says:

    Fair Economist is totally right. I just want to add that you only have two hands. If you buy a soda and a popcorn, you are done buying because it becomes a pain to carry anything else. No one is going to buy another $4 soda unless you think the movie theatres are going to cut prices in half after this law pass, which they most definitely will not do. I’m not saying this is the best idea ever, but it will work to a degree.

  53. 53
    Fair Economist says:

    @Quincy:

    We can either count on the population being well-informed and self-disciplined enough to resist, or we can collectively use the one major entity we have on our side, the government, to deny those corporations some of their most effective tools.

    Another way to put that same idea is this: Being well-informed and self-controlled are difficult and we are all limited in what we can do in those departments. Isn’t there something better than soft drink portion sizes to use our mental resources on?

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    @Fair Economist:

    How is this analogous? There’s no restrictions on what’s served. You can still order as much sugared drink as you want. You just look like more of an idiot when doing it.

    People try to ban shit. Other people get around the ban.

    And they don’t care whether they look like an idiot to you.

    And I said “it reminds me.” I was not asserting a close analogy.

  55. 55
    Nylund says:

    Of course people can get around it if they pay more, or wait around and get refills. They can still get all the soda they want. They just may have to spend more money or time to do so. That may be enough to alter behaviors.

    I don’t think one law in one city will have any effect on the national obesity epidemic or the high costs it passes on to every single person via health care costs, more expensive flights, whatever, but, if there’s a marked improvement maybe it will expand.

    I’m enough of a libertarian to say that people can buy/sell/consume whatever size they want, but I have to admit, when I see a morbidly obese mother hand her morbidly obese 12 year old kid a 64oz “mega jug” (as KFC calls it) containing 750 calories of pure sugar, I do think to myself, “that’s not right.”

    Sure, I guess she could hand the 12 year old four 16oz drinks instead, but something tells me she won’t.

  56. 56
    jl says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    Fair economist and you make good points. My main concern would be marketers providing substitute ‘juice’ drinks that avoid the rule. The you get into regulatory whack a mole games.

    Also, if researchers like Lustig are correct, refined sugar consumed in large quantities by people with low activity levels has addictive properties, and they may just substitute at other times during the day.

    And the evidence that marginal changes in refined sugar consumption alone will make a noticeable difference in overall health, and adverse health events like transition to diabetes is not real strong.

    It will be an interesting experiment, is all I can say for it. If the public reaction is NOT too bad. If public reaction is bad enough, then I would say that along makes it a questionable regulation.

    One of the things that has made tobacco control so very cost effective is public buy in to control policies. That is a social good that should not be squandered.

  57. 57
    Sentient Puddle says:

    Think I’m with Fair Economist on this one too. This seems to me to be more about rejiggering the defaults to something a little more sensible.

    And thus, if people want to get around it by buying two sodas, then I don’t really have a problem with that either. I consider that to be a sort of opt-in.

  58. 58
    Fair Economist says:

    @ThresherK:

    In a book on the history of McDonald’s (pre-internet, no cite) I remember the larger bag fries being suggested by a franchisee who saw that people who wanted more fries would not order two bags of french fries. The larger bag was introduced, and the sheer amount of fries being sold went up.

    Y’all whining about paternalism should remember the anti-paternalists are eagerly grinding away at mechanisms to lure you into bad decisions of all kinds (like that little example). You don’t have a choice about whether people will try to manipulate you; and as much as most try to deny it and claim they can control themselves, limits to time and attention mean at least some of those manipulations will work. The choice is whether to use government to make at least some of the manipulators kindasorta work in your interests.

  59. 59
    GeneJockey says:

    While I think Fair Economist is correct that this will work, the point is, it’s not the role of the government.

    Seriously, people buy Big Gulps because Big Gulps exist. Before Big Gulps existed, people bought one large soda of whatever size. I know this will just make me sound like Cranky McOldfart, but just in my lifetime, Cokes went from 6 to 10 to 12 to 16 to 20 oz. We didn’t buy 3 Cokes and drink them, and New Yorkers won’t buy two ‘Not-Quite-So-Big Gulps’.

  60. 60
    Origuy says:

    @Fair Economist:

    I know this is Balloon Juice, but there is a wee bit of ethical distance between requiring somebody to order 2 drinks to get 24 oz of Coke and, oh, mass murder in concentration camps.

    You do know that fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist economic system, don’t you? It doesn’t necessarily imply genocide. Calling Bloomberg a Nazi would have entirely different implications. Franco and others were Fascists, but didn’t establish concentration camps. Mussolini did after pressure from Hitler; it wasn’t originally part of his program.

  61. 61
    SatanicPanic says:

    @jl: Sure, people might switch to drinking coffee flavored milkshakes, AKA Venti Frappucinos. I don’t think this law is the end-all be-all of regulations, but I’m not opposed to this kind of thing in theory.

  62. 62
    PeakVT says:

    @PurpleGirl: I wouldn’t support a separate new sales tax, either, due to complexity. An excise tax might be workable but would be just as easy for lobbyists to kill. But states that normally exempt food from sales tax (6% in VT, plus 1% in Burlington) have an easy way to add a small tax, and I think the reclassification could get through some state legislatures.

  63. 63
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    Interesting that this soda story is on the same day as this

    FDA rejects bid to rename high-fructose corn syrup ‘corn sugar’
    http://www.latimes.com/busines.....4580.story

  64. 64
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Fair Economist:

    You understand, don’t you, that fascism isn’t about death camps. The problem fascists have is that they’re associated with the German variant, and their brand is tainted.

    I don’t approve of beating up on consumers when the problem lies in the product their consuming. It makes more sense to go after the problem in the product.

    But Bloomberg won’t do that. He’s more interested in punishing the peasants than in going after the Ferengi selling them the shit.

  65. 65
    Fair Economist says:

    @jl:

    Fair economist and you make good points. My main concern would be marketers providing substitute ‘juice’ drinks that avoid the rule. The you get into regulatory whack a mole games.

    Long-term, we need to change the public perception of fruit juice as “healthy”. It’s somewhat better than soda because it’s got some vitamins (although vitamin C degrade pretty quickly in solutions exposed to air) and it doesn’t have ridiculous amounts of phosphorus. But it’s still loaded with far more sugar that is healthy to drink.

  66. 66
    Ruckus says:

    It’s a stupid response to a serious problem.
    You know what would be a serious response?
    Proper healthcare for everyone.
    Wouldn’t change overnight, might even take a generation or three. But Hayzus it would sure make this a better place.

    OK now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going to look for my pony.

  67. 67
    John says:

    I’m fascinated by the idea that large numbers of people are so desperately in need of 24 oz. of soda that they’ll buy two mediums to get it. The reason people get 24 oz. sodas is because 24 oz. sodas are sold, not because they really want that much soda.

  68. 68
    Maxwel says:

    Are we talking about those drinks that are mostly ice, really?

  69. 69
    Justin Morton says:

    It is good in the sense that it will hopefully prompt the state to enact a sales tax on sugary drinks.

  70. 70
    tybee says:

    @Brachiator:

    precisely.

  71. 71
    Fair Economist says:

    @Origuy:

    You do know that fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist economic system, don’t you? It doesn’t necessarily imply genocide. Calling Bloomberg a Nazi would have entirely different implications. Franco and others were Fascists, but didn’t establish concentration camps. Mussolini did after pressure from Hitler; it wasn’t originally part of his program.

    Yes, I’m aware of what fascism is. Actually Franco and Mussolini *did* have concentration camps, just not for being Jewish. But I would agree that not all Fascists necessarily use concentration camps. However, I do say that Fascists do always use imprisonment and murder against their political opponents, and on a large scale. Bloomberg isn’t sentencing his opponents and their supporters to 15 years of hard labor. Making bad food choices slightly more difficult is not even remotely close to the kinds of activities that would justify the label “fascist”.

  72. 72
    gene108 says:

    I bought a Coke at a movie theater recently. I ordered a small. It was 32 oz. A SMALL IS 32 Oz.!

    There’s a major problem with portion sizes in a lot of places.

    When I was a kid, in the 1980’s, I think movies had something like 8 oz. 16 oz. and 24 oz. for sizes.

    The portion sizes we are being served, when eating out are a real problem. Weight Watchers recommends you get a take out box, along with your food and put half of what you order into the take box. The other half of the portion being about the suitable size a normal person should consume for a meal.

    I like some of the stuff NYC’s pulled that people call “fascist” like banning smoking at all restaurants and bars, and having calories listed next to menu items.

    I wish the rest of government had the sense to call out the problems with obesity aren’t just the fault of people overeating and the changes in the formulation of prepared and processed food, as well as portion sizes, plays a big part in it.

  73. 73
    Rob says:

    People don’t drink juice and milk shakes on the same level they do soda. I have yet to see someone with a big gulp 32 oz of apple juice at McDonalds or those who order juice with every meal they way they do at restaurants. You can’t even remotely compare them. People drink soda like water.

    All this is really doing is just forcing the portion sizes back down to something that used to be normal. Also, the pricing for all these sizes is rigged. They specifically design the pricing scheme to entice you to buy bigger by getting more for your money. It’s only about 30 cents more to double the size of a 7-11 big gulp from 32 to 64oz.

  74. 74
    lol says:

    @Brachiator:

    And what you keep ignoring is that just because people *can* get around the size limit doesn’t mean they *will*.

    People routinely buy and eat more food and drink that they need. They’ll consume a huge portion not because they’re so hungry that they want that much food, but because it’s there and they’ve been socially conditioned to not leave anything behind on their plate.

    Maybe you are thirsty enough to need 64 oz of soda instead of 16 oz. But you’ll make that decision consciously instead of just consuming the entire bucket out of habit.

  75. 75
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Another related idea… I am a cheap bastard, which often conflicts with my desire to pick a healthier option. So for someone like me it always seems like A Good Deal to keep scaling up on something like a soda. I just start to think, hey, for 15 more cents I can get like 50 percent more Stuff, I’d be a fool to pass that up! I’m not buying based on how thirsty I am, I’m buying based on ROI.

  76. 76
    Brachiator says:

    @lol:

    People routinely buy and eat more food and drink that they need.

    What people eat rarely has anything to do with need. And if people want to consume junk and can’t buy a superbig gulp, they’ll just buy more shit to go along with it.

    What are you going to do next, institute portion control measures, or tax food based on weight?

    Jesus, conservatives want to control how people fuck. Some liberals get a hard on from trying to control how people eat.

    And the next time that John Cole has a BBQ, is one of you going to knock down his door and make sure than no one overeats?

  77. 77
    Fargus says:

    @Brachiator:

    What people eat rarely has anything to do with need. And if people want to consume junk and can’t buy a superbig gulp, they’ll just buy more shit to go along with it.

    I don’t think this is necessarily true. For some, sure. But to assume it’s true of everybody? I don’t think that’s borne out by any of the studies I’ve glanced through.

  78. 78
    Mnemosyne says:

    For those who haven’t read it, there’s a fascinating book called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think that explains all of the ways that companies induce us to eat larger portions.

    As one of the middle-aged crowd on here, I remember the days when getting the Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s was a huge deal that meant you were really hungry. Now every restaurant burger is at least a third of a pound, if not half a pound.

    The food industry is stuffing us like cattle on a feed lot so they can make a few more cents profit per customer. I’m not sure I agree with Bloomberg’s decision here, but portion sizes really are a problem. The smarter companies seem to be pulling back voluntarily (a lot of chain restaurants now offer “small plates” or “600-calorie plates” or other similar reasonably-sized portions).

    Though I am in favor of taking soda machines out of schools. Kids don’t have a “right” to drink sugary drinks in the middle of the day. They can have one after school if they want one, or bring it with them from home.

  79. 79
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    And if people want to consume junk and can’t buy a superbig gulp, they’ll just buy more shit to go along with it.

    Science disagrees with you. Take a look at the book I linked to above. We are far more controlled by the packaging that our food comes in than anyone realizes. This is one of the reasons the 100 Calorie Pack has been hugely successful — people prefer to eat a single package of something, and if you give them a supersized package, most of them will eat it without a second thought.

    Again, I’m not sure I agree with Bloomberg’s solution here, but he’s responding to actual science and public policy recommendations, not just making shit up.

  80. 80
    gene108 says:

    @Rob:

    It’s only about 30 cents more to double the size of a 7-11 big gulp from 32 to 64oz.

    32 oz. ~ 1 Liter
    64 oz. ~ 2 Liters

    Your basically selling what used to be several days worth of soda consumption in a 1-serving container.

    Humans aren’t programmed to not eat. Something about being cavemen and needing to store food that still is with us.

    You put a large portion of food in front of somebody, there’s a good chance they’ll eat it and want more.

    The wanting more is what food manufacturers are hoping for, when they keep upping portion sizes because they’ll get repeat business by taking advantage of the caveman portion of our brains.

  81. 81
    gene108 says:

    @Brachiator:

    Some liberals get a hard on from trying to control how people eat.

    It’s not controlling how people eat. There’s a serious obesity problem in this country.

    Part of the problem are food manufacturers, who are upping portion sizes knowing people are in someways hardwired to eat everything in front of them and respond positively to being “well fed”, so they’ll be back for more.

  82. 82

    Time to get rid of Bloomberg. Power has really gone to its head.

    I understand his concern (obsession) about public health, but the way to commmunicate it is to educate the public, not to impose severe restrictions without talking about it to his consistuents, who might actually have good ideas.

  83. 83
    Martin says:

    So what is to stop people from ordering two beverages instead of one?

    Because they won’t. They didn’t before the Big Gulp was invented and they won’t now. These products exist because of convenience and upsell. Take them away and take away the convenience and the upsell, and demand for the drink will go way down. You’re making the same assumption that if you ban extended clips on guns, that criminals will just carry like, 5 guns, because you know how to divide. They won’t. Life isn’t math. Remember that NYC isn’t a car economy. If you buy 2 drinks you have to carry 2 drinks. If you have your lunch in your left hand, there isn’t room to hold two sodas, so you’ll only order one.

    But the large soda is insidious. You’re basically just mainlining sugar there – and what’s one of the first symptoms of diabetes? You’re always thirsty – so you order the bigger drink, which makes the diabetes worse, so you order an even bigger drink. If you want to order a 64oz water, I don’t think anyone is going to object. But large soda is a societal death spiral – played out statistically.

  84. 84
    Mattminus says:

    I imagine they’ll need to take down your drivers license number when you buy a soda, and it’ll be a felony if they catch you trying to circumvent the limit.

  85. 85
    Martin says:

    @Andree-Anne Desmedt:

    I understand his concern (obsession) about public health, but the way to commmunicate it is to educate the public, not to impose severe restrictions without talking about it to his consistuents, who might actually have good ideas.

    This is a country where half the population believes that Obama was born in Africa, due in no small part to a rich New Yorker. Economics always wins over education – so the key to solving the educational problem is to solve the economic one at the same time.

  86. 86
    Roger Moore says:

    @Rob:

    Also, the pricing for all these sizes is rigged. They specifically design the pricing scheme to entice you to buy bigger by getting more for your money. It’s only about 30 cents more to double the size of a 7-11 big gulp from 32 to 64oz.

    That’s actually a fair representation of their prices. The actual cost of the syrup and carbonated water in a fountain drink is tiny compared to the overhead. That’s why a lot of places have moved the dispenser from behind the counter to out in the customer area; they’re saving more on labor costs than they’re losing by giving people free refills.

  87. 87
    Jebediah says:

    And the next time that John Cole has a BBQ, is one of you going to knock down his door and make sure than no one overeats?

    I watched that Hatfield/McCoys thing last night. From now on,I will be approaching all West Virginians pretty carefully. I seen how they do.

  88. 88
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Mnemosyne: Agree with that. Also Martin’s comment about people having only two hands. Who let’s a 64 oz soda in a container that can’t be reclosed it around to sip on for 2-3 days? Who would actually share? It’s not like these things are for spending conscious families who’ll take out four 16 oz cups they carry around with them and divide it up.

  89. 89
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Science disagrees with you.

    Actually, the science is more complicated. Take a look at the article I linked to here.

    I don’t have a big axe to grind here. But I think a lot of the counter-reaction here is food puritanism, not science.

    As one of the middle-aged crowd on here, I remember the days when getting the Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s was a huge deal that meant you were really hungry. Now every restaurant burger is at least a third of a pound, if not half a pound.

    And yet I know lots of folks who would mosey down to Lawry’s and pig out. And all these places have a variety of sandwiches. The Big Mac was always smaller than the Quarter Pounder, but was the signature sandwich. And currently, McDonald’s pushes oatmeal along with the burgers.

    And, deity bless us, there is, has been, and always will be, The Hollenbeck.

    There was a lot going on inside that flour tortilla but it all worked and I loved it! I also really enjoyed the original Hollenbeck, which contained chile verde (pork meat in chili sauce), rice, beans and guacamole and was topped with more chile verde. El Tepeyac has other burritos on its menu as well, including “Manuel’s Special Burritos,” which are ridiculously gigantic six-pound versions of the Hollenbecks.

    Portion control is for weenies.

  90. 90
    pragmatism says:

    glibertarian voltron, ASSEMBLE!
    oh wait, mr. koch sez no.
    back to your individual leather jackets then.

  91. 91
    evinfuilt says:

    Bloomberg does know that two 16 ounce cokes equals one 32 ounce supersized coke, right? So what is to stop people from ordering two beverages instead of one?

    Because humans are lazy… In the 70s (I believe) a movie studio found people wouldn’t buy 2 items BUT would gladly purchase 1 item that was twice the size.

    Thus our ever largening waist lines.

  92. 92
    liberal says:

    @gene108:

    Humans aren’t programmed to not eat. Something about being cavemen and needing to store food that still is with us.

    Please give my wife a buzz and tell her that. I work at home a lot, sitting in front of a computer all day, and she bitches about me eating a bit more crap than is necessary.

    Plus, there’s the “I thought only women did ’emotional eating.'”

    My weight’s been pretty stable, so between banging my head against the wall even harder, I’ll choose to eat a little more than I need to, thank you very much.

  93. 93
    chopper says:

    @lol:

    this. there may be some people who say ‘fuck him, i’ll buy two mediums!’. but i doubt the people buying two out of spite are going to amount to many, or for very long. just because people can get around this doesn’t mean they will.

  94. 94
    I_am_a_lead_pencil says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    Movie theaters in NYC will now come out with a plastic handle (think gear shift) that supports two circular rims above for holding 16 oz sodas. They will offer a deal to make the “double” only say 1.5x as expensive than buying 2 singles. Problem solved for those wanting more soda and concerned with carrying it all.

  95. 95
    LanceThruster says:

    I’ve been watching “Weight of the Nation” on HBO and I’ve really been moved by those health professionals who actually seek to help rather than just assign blame (fat lazy slobs lacking willpower). You get an idea of the challenge when our children (I have none but I mean the youth of the US) are constantantly are bombarded and indoctrinated with messages for junk (poison actually).

    I have issues with Bloomberg for other reasons, but don’t see him as some sort of food Nazi. Every little bit to raise awareness helps. If the Reich wing *really* hates the nanny state…end the drug war (War on _us_, to be honest) NOW!

  96. 96
    evinfuilt says:

    Seriously, people buy Big Gulps because Big Gulps exist. Before Big Gulps existed, people bought one large soda of whatever size. I know this will just make me sound like Cranky McOldfart, but just in my lifetime, Cokes went from 6 to 10 to 12 to 16 to 20 oz. We didn’t buy 3 Cokes and drink them, and New Yorkers won’t buy two ‘Not-Quite-So-Big Gulps’.

    Growing up soda machines sold a can of coke… Then a bottle of coke (1 liter bottles appearing soon.) This happens all throughout the market place, the product is cheap, its the labour/transport which has a cost attached, so they up the price a lot (and you get more “value” for it.) Thus we buy more than we need (giving the company its much needed profit) and get fatter.

    Heck, companies now charge you MORE for the small bottles. Because people who purchase those are doing so for health reasoning (cutting back on unneeded calories.)

    Hmmm, just realized I should start doing sun tea at work. Might get even more people off the sugar water.

  97. 97
    SatanicPanic says:

    @I_am_a_lead_pencil: You’re still making it tougher and more embarassing to buy the same amount of soda. These are powerful demotivators.

  98. 98
    I_am_a_lead_pencil says:

    @LanceThruster:
    If drugs were legal and he proceeded to limit drug sales in some way, he’d also be wrong…but I think restricting alcohol sales to any time frame less than 24 hours a day is b.s. as well.

  99. 99
    I_am_a_lead_pencil says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    On the contrary. I think there are a fair number of folks who’d think it “cool” to “double-up” just as there are a fair number of folks that buy the obscenely sized GIANT popcorn with no embarrassment…and maybe even pride!

  100. 100
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    Actually, the science is more complicated. Take a look at the article I linked to here.

    I did, and I don’t see a single thing in that article that conflicts with what I’ve been saying — portion sizes are too big, and having a large portion of a sugary drink is very bad for you. The current science (which is what Taubes is drawing from) shows that protein has a lot more effect on satiety than was previously believed, which then affects how much people eat (if you feel full faster, you eat less, and if you feel full longer, you eat less). This is why Weight Watchers changed their program to emphasize the mix of nutrients that you eat over pure caloric consumption. (Full disclosure: I am a part-time WW employee.)

    Personally, I’m skeptical of any of the Sugar Busters eating-fruit-will-kill-you crowd, but YMMV. I think insulin resistance and a predilection towards type II (or even type 1.5) diabetes is more common than scientists realized, but I’m skeptical that our obesity problem stems from eating too much fruit as Taubes seems to think.

  101. 101
    Brachiator says:

    @gene108:

    It’s not controlling how people eat. There’s a serious obesity problem in this country.

    And so the answer for some, is to control how people eat.

    Part of the problem are food manufacturers, who are upping portion sizes knowing people are in someways hardwired to eat everything in front of them and respond positively to being “well fed”, so they’ll be back for more.

    People live an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and yet have easy access to food of all portions and sizes. Hell, Starbucks is opening up a store in my bathroom, and I can order mochas and cookies when I roll out of bed.

    And this “hardwired” of caveman bodies thing is an oversimplification of history, evolution, biology, etc.

    We have more food and access to food and eat more stuff more often. People need to stop blaming food manufacturers.

    but I think restricting alcohol sales to any time frame less than 24 hours a day is b.s. as well.

    They are trying a crackdown on alcohol sales in Scotland.

    The new measures setting the first legally-binding minimum price within the European Union are expected to get royal assent later next month after the Tories, Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats voted alongside the Scottish National party at Holyrood.
    __
    The legislation– which could be followed by similar price controls for England and Wales – will mean that whisky will cost a minimum of £14 a bottle, average strength wine will cost £4.69, four cans of own brand supermarket lager £3.52 and standard strength vodka £13.13 a bottle.
    __
    It will also finally stop supermarkets, shops and pubs, which are already legally prevented in Scotland from selling alcohol at bulk discounts or two for one offers, from offering single bottle cut-price promotions which push the cost of the drink under the 50p a unit level.

    It will be interesting to see how this works out.

  102. 102
    gopher2b says:

    This is similar to the foie gras ban in Chicago a few years ago. Merchants are smart, instead of selling foie gras, they gave it away (on a $50 steak).

    Just wait until every 7-11 in the city launches a buy one 16 ounce, get one free program just to protest the ban.

    Well played Bloomerberg, you just made getting fat cheaper.

  103. 103
    lol says:

    @Brachiator:

    If they want to eat/drink more, they’ll have to make the conscious decision to do so. And if they still want to, then fine, go ahead.

    And that’s the point – when people are forced to actually think about the decision, they usually make a different one than if a corporation with a financial incentive to stuff them full of crap is driving the decision making process.

  104. 104
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    And so the answer for some, is to control how people eat what corporations are allowed to sell you.

    Fix’d. I don’t think anyone — including Bloomberg — is saying that stores won’t be allowed to sell you more than one 16 oz. drink. They just won’t be able to sell you a 32 oz. cup. If you want to buy a second one, or get a refill, knock yourself out.

    I really don’t get how telling 7 Eleven that they have to get rid of their 32 oz. cups is a horrible infringement on personal liberties.

  105. 105
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    The current science (which is what Taubes is drawing from

    Sorry, posting too fast in a couple of threads.

    Taubes is interesting, but he is challenging a lot of current thinking on nutrition, so one point I should have made more clear is that there is no such thing as “current science” pointing in a single direction on this issue.

    And elsewhere Taubes reminds that things are more complicated.

    One point I make in Why We Get Fat is that we all respond to this carbohydrate/insulin effect differently. Some of us can eat carbohydrate-rich meals and burn them off effortlessly. We’re the ones (like Oz) who partition the carbs we consume into energy. (This is the fuel gauge metaphor that I use in WWGF and that Oz’s producers reproduced wonderfully on the show.) And some of us partition the carbs we consume into fat for storage, and that partitioning depends on a lot of different enzymatic and hormonal factors — mostly relating to insulin and LPL as Williams Textbook of Endocrinology said).
    __
    There are a few obvious dietary means to reduce the amount of insulin we secrete and ultimately the level of insulin in our circulation day in and day out. One is to eat fewer carbohydrates; one is to improve the quality of the carbs we do eat, which means eating carbs that are less refined (their glycemic index is low or at least lower) and carbs that come with a lot of fiber attached (green leafy vegetables), and then eating less sugars, by which I mean both sucrose and high fructose corn syrup.
    __
    And this brings us to the point of controversy on the show – where Oz and I disagree. (Okay, one of the many points on which we disagree, but the one that needs clarification sooner rather than later). This is also the point that public health authorities, physicians and nutritionists almost religiously refuse to accept or even understand, because one implication of what I’m saying is that the good Dr. Atkins was right all along, and they just can’t get it through their head, as Oz can’t, that a diet of the kind Atkins recommended might be not only healthy but the medically appropriate treatment for the condition – in this case, obesity.
    __
    There are a couple of helpful ways to think about the role of carbohydrates in obesity and chronic disease, and one of them (the other I’ll discuss at the end of this post) is that some of us are more tolerant to the refined and easily digestible carbs and sugars in our diet than others. The more we can tolerate them the less we have to avoid them. Hence, the dose of carb-restriction that’s necessary to be lean and (probably) healthy is a small one.

    In any event, portion control as a one size fits all answer is goofy and intrusive.

  106. 106
    N. Eugene says:

    But this won’t do anything to stop it.

    I tend to hate this kind of legislation on principle, but are you sure about that?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....ezra-klein

    It actually makes sense to me – people just order a drink with their burger, they don’t fuss too much over the size. If it’s smaller on average, people will consumer fewer calories on average, and on average less people will be obese. Might not be justification, but arguing against it on effectiveness grounds may not be a winning argument.

  107. 107
    dcdl says:

    @Schlemizel:

    My sister-in-law is getting that procedure done this June. I personally don’t believe it’ll do anything for her. She has yet to change her lifestyle habits of horrible and large sums of eating and not exercising. Her mom got it done and gained about half the weight back, but for all I know she will have gained it back at a future date. I had a co-worker also get the procedure done and she also gained about half the weight back. The two people who gained half the weight back don’t exercise and still eat a lot, plus now they have all that extra skin hanging down everywhere. Not a really pretty sight.

    I think instead of wasting money on that surgery that money should go into a life coach or someone who would really work with the person on their overall life of bad habits and helping them make new, healthier choices and creating better habits.

  108. 108
    BBA says:

    @PeakVT: Sodas are already subject to sales tax in NY. (In general groceries are not taxed while restaurant meals are.) The previous Bloomberg proposal was for a extra tax on top of the 8.875% sales tax for sugared beverages only. This didn’t pass the state legislature.

    The current proposal is being implemented by the NYC Board of Health, which (a) consists entirely of doctors and MPHs and (b) is appointed by the mayor. It’s a bizarre idea, but it’s more bizarre that the mayor can unilaterally impose portion control but he has to go through Albany to pass the far less onerous soda tax.

  109. 109
    Steve says:

    As someone who actually lives under the Bloomberg regime, I’m not sure I’m in favor of this, but some of the comments are uninformed. Bloomberg actually said at his press conference that if you really want 32oz of soda at the movie theater, just buy two 16oz, it’s not that much harder to carry. The idea of buying two, or getting a refill, is not some kind of ingenious workaround, nor does it make the rule unenforceable. As many have already noted, the point is that most people will not buy two. The vast majority of us, when we’re in a restaurant, just order a “medium” or whichever size, without asking or caring exactly how many ounces it is.

    Someone mentioned that it’s dumb the rule doesn’t cover sugared fruit drinks. It does.

    Since my drink of choice is Diet Coke, supposedly I won’t be affected, but in reality no one is going to keep stocking the big cups just for the people who drink diet. But it’s not that big a deal. I have far more of a problem with the general sense of pointless nanny-statism than with any impact it will actually have on my life.

  110. 110
    Jim Pharo says:

    John, your NYC twin here to let you know you’re wrong on this. This is actually a modest policy that will have great impact. The ‘default’ size for sugary sodas has a huge impact, and the fact that it can be circumvented won’t mean it won’t end up having a big impact.

    It also puts the beverage industry on notice that there are other values than soda company profits. We don’t allow people to sell all kinds of unhealthful stuff. Giant sodas whose main function is to swell the profits of the government subsidized soda business are unhealthful and we need not accept it.

    Get on board, pal. If this doesn’t go through, something will. What we’re doing now isn’t working…

  111. 111
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    This is also the point that public health authorities, physicians and nutritionists almost religiously refuse to accept or even understand, because one implication of what I’m saying is that the good Dr. Atkins was right all along, and they just can’t get it through their head, as Oz can’t, that a diet of the kind Atkins recommended might be not only healthy but the medically appropriate treatment for the condition – in this case, obesity.

    Yeah, sorry, can’t take any diet guy seriously who pushes Atkins and thinks we’re obese because we eat too many fruits and vegetables.

  112. 112
    Ron says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: How is HFCS any worse than just using cane syrup or some other sugar?

  113. 113
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ron:

    Speaking for myself, I thought it was unlikely that there was a difference between HFCS and other sugar products until the HFCS industry started running ads proudly touting that there’s no problem with it “in moderation.”

    Then I started wondering what the industry’s studies were showing them that they felt the need to emphasize “in moderation” in their commercials about how wonderful and healthy HFCS is, especially given that it seems to be in every goddamned processed food that we eat from bread to frozen dinners to soup.

    I try to avoid HFCS, especially in drinks, but that’s because it has a nasty burned aftertaste to me. (I can also taste the difference between all of the artificial sweeteners and correctly identify them, so I may verge on being a supertaster.)

  114. 114
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    @Ron:

    Level of processing needed to get the sweet from HFCS, and how the body metabolizes HFCS, opposed to other sugars. There is conflicting data as to ill effects of HCFS, but most medical folks land on the side of the less processing of sugars, the better for you. I can just say from my own experience, eating even moderate amounts of foodstuff and liquid sweetened by HFCS, causes the fat to build up way faster, and my body just lets me know this is some bad stuff. Highly processed sweeteners are also thought to be harder to metabolize, and puts pressure on the pancreas toward causing diabetes type 2.

  115. 115
    gaz says:

    I’m pretty sure that many problems, including the ubiquity of HFCS can be at least ameliorated by ENDING CORN SUBSIDIES.

    We have corn spewing out of every american orifice. It needs to stop.

  116. 116
    Joan Carter says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while, and it kind of sucks that this is the first time I’ve felt the urge to comment, but it’s kind of a big deal. Cole is absolutely, catastrophically wrong on this point, and Fair Economist and Mnemosyne are completely right.

    The science is actually pretty solid on how changing portion sizes affects behaviour; as has been pointed out above, ask the mid-century marketeers about that one. As for Brachiator’s “some people have super-awesome carbohydrate tolerance, so a one-size-fits-all policy makes no sense!” argument, well… what doesn’t make sense is that argument. Reducing consumption of this crap among the general population is an unalloyed good in terms of health benefits, unless you happen to think that all New Yorkers are super-human sugar-processing machines, in which case – at least this saves on cavities, right?

    The left has developed a weird kind of reflexive, knee-jerk response to charges of paternalism and nanny-statism. Here’s the skinny: the difference between “unbearable hand of the nanny state” and “justifiable, common-sense governance” is which class it affects. People keep voting in Republican governors; are you going to pretend that a public health initiative is really “nanny-statism” run amok, with the War on Women going on?

    The big picture here is that this is utterly necessary. The Affordable Care Act – and, eventually, attempts to nationalise the single-payor system in Vermont that it’s made possible – won’t work on its own. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the States, but, fortunately, working on health system stuff here on a European level has made that clear. If you want to protect liberal achievements in the health sphere – and, yes, this includes the mechanics of expanded coverage and provision – you have to try to deal with healthcare costs. The ACA and, hopefully, further reforms will do a fair amount to reign in costs in the short term, but will do nothing to change the long-term picture. So long as this is the case, the system is fatally weakened and always open to conservative attack.

    Protecting the future of universal coverage starts here, with initiatives like Bloomberg’s. To write this off as “Americans Elect” nonsense is to be as myopic as climate change deniers.

  117. 117
    Ron says:

    @Joan Carter: I have to disagree here. It is in my opinion fundamentally wrong for the government to create laws to protect you from yourself. This law is IMO the very essence of that type of law. “You are too stupid to understand that this is bad for you so we’ll prevent you from being able to do it”

  118. 118
    Joan Carter says:

    @Ron: I agree that, in the abstract, you’ve got to worry about slippery-slope elements to stuff like this. However:

    (1) You’re not actually being prevented from doing anything. You can still purchase the same volume of liquid, you just have to do it in a different way.

    (2) I’m not sure what the qualitative difference between “changing the way food is sold to nudge people towards consuming less shit” and “imposing a small financial penalty on people to compel them to purchase health insurance” is that makes the former paternalism but the latter not. I’d imagine we’re all on the same page when it comes to the ACA, right? Neither the Bloomberg initiative nor the ACA actually prevent you from living your life in exactly the same manner, they just make it incrementally more annoying to do so. The ACA’s financial penalty is actually much more direct about this; again, if you REALLY want it, you can still just purchase two sodas.

    (3) When it comes to public health, it is quite frankly difficult to imagine that America will ever allow a run-away nanny state to bubble-wrap everyone’s life. Even if Bloomberg was proposing a law that truly is trying to “prevent you from being able to do” something – and it made sense – I’d still be in support of it, because the slope just isn’t slippery at all on public health initiatives. I understand that this is a point of genuine disagreement between us, and that there’s not really any way to bridge that gap. But I think the likelihood of government actions moving into “dangerous” territory on this one is just vanishingly small.

  119. 119
    Fargus says:

    @Ron:

    That’s absolutely not the point of this law. The point of the law isn’t to protect you from yourself, but to protect you from marketers who exploit facts about your behavior to give you ever more calories than you would otherwise choose yourself.

  120. 120

    […] York City Should Tax Soda, Not Ban ItPosted on June 1, 2012 by Militant1 in MotherJonesJohn Cole reacts to the new anti-large-soda ban that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing in New York […]

  121. 121
    Ron says:

    @Fargus: This sounds like “you’re too stupid to see what the marketers are doing, so we’ll protect you from it.” It’s one thing to prevent blatant lies by advertising/marketing. It’s another to say “You won’t be able to stop yourself from buying the bazillion ounce soda, so we’ll stop them from selling it.”

  122. 122
    Ron says:

    @Joan Carter: I don’t think you can make the same case for “Ban large sodas” as the individual mandate of the ACA. Basically, the individual mandate is there because the law doesn’t allow insurance companies to refuse insurance on the basis of a pre-existing condition. Essentially, it prevents people from saying “I don’t need health insurance!” as long as they are healthy and then buying it the minute something bad happens. It’s not intended to protect anyone from themselves as much as it is intended to prevent gaming of the system.
    As to your other point, I’m not making a slippery slope argument. I’m making the argument that it is bad policy to ever design a law that is intended to protect people from making a bad choice. It’s not always going to be black and white, as sometimes we as a society have to pay for that bad choice someone else made.
    I also don’t get the argument of “this law doesn’t stop you from buying two sodas.” That just makes the law silly.

  123. 123
    Fargus says:

    @Ron:

    I don’t think that’s what I’m saying at all, though. I think this isn’t a ban on consumers, it’s a ban on vendors. Consumers are still free to buy whatever they want, it just puts another step of thought between them and doing it. Makes those decisions active, not passive. If I’m ordering a value meal and the smallest available soda size that comes with it is more soda than I would want generally, am I going to go to the trouble of splitting up my order, getting a sandwich, fries, and a smaller soda? Probably not. I’ll probably just get the soda they offer and absentmindedly drink it later.

    This absolutely is not about denying consumers “what they want.” It’s about denying vendors the right to define what consumers want.

  124. 124
    Joan Carter says:

    @Ron: It may seem silly, but that’s the whole crux of the law’s justification: it doesn’t actually stop you from doing anything, so it’s not infringing any of your “rights”; however, research shows that reducing portion sizes, even while making the same overall amount of liquid available if you make a conscious decision to purchase it, reduces consumption. Not by a little; by a lot. That’s the whole point of the law.

    Also, saying “sometimes we as a society have to pay for that bad choice someone else made” is exactly the kind of thinking I’m trying to get at. This train of thought completely undermines the ACA: someone else’s “bad choice” of not getting health insurance means that “we as a society have to pay” for the adverse selection death spiral. There is no material difference between stopping people bankrupting the system through skipping out on health insurance and bankrupting the system through developing insanely expensive health conditions, save for the difference in time scale. The former would collapse the system pretty much overnight; the latter, allow it to be chipped away at through successive miniature crises, as conservatives win battle after battle, in such a manner that no one really realises it’s happening. That’s what’s happening in Europe; it’ll destroy the ACA and anything that comes after, too.

  125. 125
    xian says:

    @Schlemizel: Gingrich gained his weight back too, as have several people I know personally. They eventually learn to eat more smaller meals, or retrain their body to consume more over time.

  126. 126
    Ron says:

    @Fargus: So we should deny vendors the ability to make decisions based on their economic self-interest? There’s a reason fountain sodas tend to be huge. They are basically the biggest profit margins out there. So let’s say they charge $2.50 for a 32oz soda. If they have to cut down to a 16oz soda they can’t simply cut the price in half as that would be a huge hit to the profit. They can cut the price a little, but lets say they cut it to $2.00 for a 16 oz. soda. Now consumers get 1/2 the product for 80% of the price, which makes them unhappy (and understandably so).

  127. 127
    Fargus says:

    @Ron:

    Because the vendors have conditioned them that they “want” that 32 oz. soda, right? But before it was available, were people going around everywhere buying two 16 oz. sodas? No. You know they weren’t. This is stupid.

  128. 128
    EJ says:

    I’m sure the residents of New York City appreciate your concern about a law which was passed by their duly elected government and in which in no way affects you.

    Everyone knows Bloomy likes to pass these kinds of nanny-state regulations. If they didn’t want them, New Yorkers were perfectly free to vote him out.

  129. 129
    Ron says:

    @Fargus: No, but if they could get away with selling the 16 oz. for the desired profit they would. You have a population that wants to ‘get their money’s worth’ on everything, especially when it comes to food and drink. Look at the commercials for Golden Corral mocking the idea of sharing an appetizer and getting a single entree. “Come to our place and eat all you want!”

  130. 130

    […] attack on soda is “stupid, paternalistic, and completely unenforceable,” says Juan Cole at Balloon Juice. Anyone thwarted from buying a 32-ounce super-sized Coke will be able to buy two 16-ouncers. And […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] attack on soda is “stupid, paternalistic, and completely unenforceable,” says Juan Cole at Balloon Juice. Anyone thwarted from buying a 32-ounce super-sized Coke will be able to buy two 16-ouncers. And […]

  2. […] York City Should Tax Soda, Not Ban ItPosted on June 1, 2012 by Militant1 in MotherJonesJohn Cole reacts to the new anti-large-soda ban that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing in New York […]

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