Soda Bans Coming to Los Angeles, Cambridge?
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of large sodas has stirred up a lot of angry vitriol, but that hasn’t stopped officials in other cities from following his lead. Earlier this month, the mayor of Philadelphia said that Bloomberg’s proposal is “worth evaluating.” Then, this week, a Los Angeles city council member proposed that sodas be banned from vending machines in parks and libraries, and Cambridge’s mayor asked the city council to think about limiting the sizes of sugary drinks in restaurants. Considering the backlash against Bloomberg, why are these city officials jumping to take up his cause?
The simple answer is that sodas really are a public health concern. Childhood obesity in the United States has tripled since 1980, and more than 35 percent of American adults are obese. In Los Angeles County, more than half of adults are overweight or obese. You hardly need a scientist to tell you that sodas are “a key contributor to the epidemic of overweight and obesity.”
Now, a quick reality check: Bloomberg’s proposal is riddled with loopholes and probably won’t even work, so if these other cities end up with proposals anything like his, then soda isn’t going anywhere, at least not any time soon. Even if cities did start developing well-designed plans to reduce soda consumption, they’d have to confront legitimate questions about how far government can go to restrict personal behavior in the name of the public good.
Even if no soda bans are ever implemented, maybe these cities will make some of us reevaluate our choices, just by sparking a conversation about sugary beverages. In other words, next time you want a large soda with your lunch, maybe you’ll take a moment to be grateful that you have the option—and then decide to pour yourself a cup of water instead.
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