Study: Yeah, that NYC soda ban would probably backfire

Ah, the utter folly of trying to impose top-down virtue on the oh-so-unenlightened masses.

Bloomberg’s now infamous large-soda ban, ostensibly designed to serve the twofold purpose of both limiting people’s sugary-drink intake and raising awareness of their poor health choices, was put on hold at the eleventh hour by a judge’s ruling last month — but some researchers at UC San Diego were curious whether the law would really have had its intended effect.

A new study suggests this type of law may backfire and actually cause people to purchase more sugary beverages. …

For the study, published April 10 in PLoS One, Wilson and fellow researchers offered 100 participants three kinds of menus. One “unregulated” menu offered drinks in 16 ($1.59), 24 ($1.79) or 32-ounce sizes ($1.99), one menu offered only 16-ounce drinks (also for $1.59) for sale and the third offered either one 16-ounce soda ($1.59) or bundles of two 12-ounce ($1.79) or 16-ounce ($1.99) sodas. …

Participants bought significantly more soda from the menu with bundles of 12 ounce and 16 ounce drinks than they did when offered individual sodas of different sizes.

The researchers also determined based on these choices, that businesses could make more money bundling drinks than only offering one small size. Bundled drinks also outsold the unregulated menu with multiple sizes, which suggests this type of soda ban could make businesses more money.

And businesses, of course, will eventually adjust their menus to maximize their sales — meaning that the soda ban might very well have had the opposite effect of what Bloomberg set out to achieve. The study has its limitations, but the point stands: The outcome of Bloomberg’s would-be ban is very unclear, and it’s probably not wise to try to legislate social engineering that’s going to have who knows what results.

Government, like all other individuals and entities under the sun, operates under imperfect knowledge and also happens to be especially corruptible. Why is it that these progressive nanny-state types always presume to know better than the people making the decisions for themselves, and end up sticking us with the unintended consequences?

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