Policies that gain controversy in their engagement with obesity are helpful for making a very public (yet uncomfortably avoided) issue further visible. It's hard to talk about obesity, private or public. Policies like the soda rule can be vehicles for those discussions to take place.
As my colleague and I illustrate in our recent paper, the trend toward larger portions coincides with the availability of calories in the U.S. food supply and the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity. So what can we do about this continued trend toward larger portions?
I applaud Mayor Bloomberg's dedication and willingness to take a stand against opponents to the ban and all the name calling criticism he has received. At the same time, banning supersize soda alone misses the point.
New York City's Board of Health recently approved Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to limit the sizes of sweetened beverages. The regulation restricts the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and delis.
Now that the New York City Board of Health has ratified Mayor Bloomberg's plan to ban sugar-sweetened beverages (well, some such beverages, really) larger than 16 oz., we should be able to answer the question: Is this a big deal?
While it's obvious that the soda industry would be on the defense, largely missing from the debate so far has been the role of the fast food and restaurant industry as a significant driver of soft drink sales
If we want to reverse the obesity epidemic -- as we must -- then the policies we choose must be more nuanced and more positive. Copying the heavy-handed war on tobacco, as Mayor Bloomberg is doing with his war on soda, will fail.
I believe that it's going to take all of us -- business, government, society, nonprofits, individuals -- working together to solve our obesity challenge. We need more holistic programs, not a narrowly focused, short-sighted ban that won't work.
It's crucial for our individual health and the health of our society to step away from easy labels and to dig into accurate, factual, scientific data derived from careful, logical research and to see what it means for public policy.