Why Bloomberg's soda ban won't work

For a ban meant to address health in low-income communities, it was particularly concerning to us that it was brought forth during a time when the city was considering cuts to minority health programs. And scratching the surface of the proposal, we believe the ban does not consider the complexity of how and why people acquire food and drink, and instead applies a simplified solution to a layered problem (one highly likely to fall short of its intended goal). For instance, the ban would exempt drinks over 16 ounces that contained over 50 percent milk. This would include drinks like a 24 fl. oz. serving of a certain corporation’s popular blended crème caffeinated beverage, a drink that is roughly 470 calories — equivalent to the amount of calories in a medium 10-ounce steak. Yet it would ban a single-serving of soda, juice, enhanced water beverage, tea, coffee or sports drink of equivalent size if purchased from certain establishments.

It’s also important to look at where people acquire such large drinks. The average New Yorker goes to the movie theater (known for large single-servings of beverages) only four times a year, and attends sports venues even less regularly. Daily trips to the neighborhood deli store (or ‘bodega’) are much more common occurrences. Such neighborhood stores selling over 50 percent food products fall under the jurisdiction of the City’s Department of Health, and therefore would be limited by the ban. Those selling under 50 percent food products would be exempt from the ban. This effectively means that two stores on the same block might very well be held to different standards. In fact, some major chain stores would be exempted by this same standard.