Is 'Soda Ban' a Misnomer?

US News

Editor's note: A state judge has halted the ban on large sugary sodas, calling it arbitrary.

As of tomorrow, March 12, your cup may no longer runneth over. New York City restaurants are starting to order new glassware to comply with what's being called "the Soda Ban."

Let's get something straight: This is not a soda ban. Soda machines will not dry up, and the city will still sell this sweet stuff. Rather, the ban forbids the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, and other food service establishments regulated by the city's health department. Grocery and convenience stores are not included in this regulation.

So for those of you who love sugary soft drinks, you will still be able to buy any quantity you desire at the supermarket, and you can still purchase a 16-ounce cup (which is equivalent to about 12 packets of sugar). You'll even be able to buy two or three of those sized portions, if you so desire. However, you won't be able to purchase a cup of soda the size of a small swimming pool. Although these may have seemed like they were saving you money (yes, we've all been tempted when we could double the size of our soda at the movie theatre, for "only 25 cents more), the price paid in health care costs out-weighed the cost of the pop.

[See Even 1 Soda a Day Can Hike Your Diabetes Risk.]

Moreover, this "ban" is not just about soda. Other sugary drinks like presweetened coffee, tea, lemonade, sports drinks, and energy drinks will all be included. Here's where it gets confusing: If the beverage includes more than 50 percent milk (or milk substitute), it's exempt from the ruling because it has some nutritional value. Diet sodas served in containers greater than 16 ounces that have fewer than 25 calories per 8 ounces are also exempt, but diet sodas are far from health foods.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of cups larger than 16 ounces for sugary beverages has caused quite a stir among health professionals, media, and family members. Some of the questions raised include: Will this ban take away personal freedoms? Will this bold move inspire other cities to follow suit, as was the case with calorie labeling of restaurant meals? Will food companies downsize to help Americans downsize? It's uncertain where this will lead, but there are a few things I do know for sure:

-- No one person needs to consume a sugary beverage that's even 16 ounces, let alone anything larger than that amount. Even if you're a construction worker outside in the hot sun, you can purchase a small soda if you'd enjoy one and buy a gallon of water, a beverage most of us don't get enough of, to stay hydrated.

[See Michelle Obama Speaks Out Against Childhood Obesity.]

-- Most people who buy these over-sized cups of sugary beverages are not pouring it out into mini cups and sharing it with their friends and families ... these drinks are generally going into one mouth at one sitting.

-- Soda is not the only food causing obesity and the related risks and diseases that are side dishes to this global problem. Boxes of candy bigger than the size of a dictionary are being sold every day in movie theatres and stores across the country. But we have to start somewhere--and why not choose a food that is over-used and void of nutritional value?

[See Vogue's 'Diet Mom:' How I Enforced My Kid's Diet.]

The goal is not to punish soda-lovers: It's to help people go from supersize to favorite size.

What do you think about the ban? Do you think it imprisons personal freedoms or protects the personal health of the citizens of a city that's bursting at the seams? Please share your thoughts here and let me know how you feel and how this will impact your life.

[See Best and Worst Fast Food Kids' Meals.]

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.

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