On September 13, the Board of Health of New York City passed a ban on the sale of large sodas over 16 ounces, to take effect in March, 2013. The regulation is set to limit the consumption of non-diet sodas, sweet teas and other heavily caloric beverages. The ban will not apply to water, diet soda or unsweetened teas. It will also not apply to natural herbal sugar substitutes such as anise, cinnamon and stevia, which are sold at most health food stores. Beverages sold in convenience stores and supermarkets are also excluded. At bottom, soda manufacturers do have a good alternative to substitute sugar for herbal preparations that do not have the same penalty as sugar in raising glucose levels to abnormal highs.
New Yorkers for Beverage Choices has opposed the ban and may seek legal action against the City of New York to lift it. If the ban is litigated, the initial decision of the lower court may be examined on appeal according to an “arbitrary and capricious standard” which means that the finding of a lower court will not be disturbed by a higher court unless it has no rational basis. The argument of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices is that business owners and restaurants in particular may be hurt financially by the ban. That may be true; however, people in opposition to the ban must consider the alarming level of childhood diabetes in NYC and elsewhere.
Diabetes isn’t the only problem. There are other issues, such as childhood morbid obesity, gross imbalances in the blood chemistry and damage to vital internal organs like the liver. Examples of these imbalances would be the glucose level and the A1C rolling average indicator as reported on standard blood tests.
Opponents are reviewing the legal options against New York City which are limited by the advice of medical clinicians on the recommended sugar allotment in the daily diet. Thirty seven grams of sugar is a popular limit. Most small cans of soda (8 ounces) have approximately that amount. A 16 ounce soda weighs in at nearly 75 grams of sugar. With a 37 gram limit in the daily diet, any soda sized above 16 ounces would have a prohibitive sugar content. This prohibitive area is the subject of the Mayor’s ban which has now been affirmed unanimously by the city health department.
Another option to banning sodas above 16 ounces would be to impose a robust excess consumption tax on the incremental consumption beyond the legal limit of 16 ounces. These tax revenues could be utilized for public education, as well as supplemental revenue for the Medicaid program which funds health care for child diabetics who come from poor families.
An additional option would be to place a label warning of the impact of excess sugar on the liver, pancreas and the blood chemistry on sodas above 16 ounces. Ultimately, the safer ground for the city or any governmental unit is to place an excess consumption tax on the behavior to be penalized and to utilize tax revenues to supplement Medicaid.
Whatever the city does ultimately, parents, children, teachers, physical education administrators and family physicians will have a vested interest in the outcome.