The contrary view to the soft drink ban, focussing on the following myths, with my comments in brackets:
- Soft drink consumption is rising (but he only counts sodas as soft drinks, not energy drinks or juices – let’s have overall data please)
- Kids are fat because they drink too much soda (agree, combination of what they eat, not just soda and lack of exercise)
- Taxes worked for tobacco, so they’ll work for soft drinks (correct that taxing food for obesity is more complex than for tobacco, but doesn’t mean it should not be one regulatory mechanism used)
- Big food and beverage companies don’t care about your health (more complex here, companies react as well to public debates about health more than absolute concerns about health. Not villains, just normal market forces)
- Follow government food guides and you’ll be healthy (bit unfair here as he fails to mention emphasis on fruit and vegetables)
When it comes to obesity, let’s at least admit one thing: Obesity is a complex business with no top-down, simple solution. If governments want to effect real change, they have to start with education and the family. Simply imposing a new regulation – such as restricting the size of soda containers – may make anti-soda advocates feel better, but that’s it. No lasting solution here. Mr. Bloomberg’s idea is one we can do without.
We can all agree on the need to start with education and the family. But given all we know about how we are evolutionarily programmed to over-eat, and how current urban development and lifestyle reduce required movement, this needs to be supplemented by a range of regulatory messages. Yes, Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative will not solve obesity but is an example of a regulation to ‘nudge’ people into healthier patterns.