Mayor Bloomberg recently announced his latest crusade in the war against fat by proposing to ban all large servings of soft drinks. This proposal has been met with a variety of backlash from newspapers, politicians, comedians and many more critics. The ultimate question however remains, what will be the ultimate effect of this proposal and will it actually increase healthy consumption habits?
One of the first things noticed about this proposal are all the loopholes people can use to still consume as much sugar as they wish. Consumers can still get refills at fast food restaurants, and they can still consume many other sugary beverages like milkshakes, sweetened juices and alcoholic beverages. Mayor Bloomberg has tried similar initiatives in the past, such as the required calorie counts on restaurant menus. However it seems like the mayor has learned little from his past mistakes.
Chain restaurants like McDonald’s are mandated to tell consumers how many calories are on each item in their menus, but local delis and restaurants have no obligation to do this, once again creating a loophole in Bloomberg’s plan. With so many ways to get around Bloomberg’s policies, a careful analysis of what the actual goals are of Bloomberg’s war on fat is needed. Health costs have gotten much higher in recent years due to rising obesity; however it is unprecedented for the government to limit what Americans can and cannot eat. Some of the strongest backlash to Mayor Bloomberg’s policies has criticized the mayor for abusing his power; if food regulations start with soda, where will they end? Will we soon be regulated into eating certain size portions of ‘healthy food’ for the rest of our lives?
Large soft drinks can still be purchased at grocery stores and drug stores, simply making it less convenient for customers to consume large quantities of soda. Since the mayor cannot hope to actually regulate how much soda people consume, the major goal of this initiative is to raise awareness and create a buzz about the health risks associated with these sugary beverages. Raising awareness and enacting a law are two very different things, and the mayor needs to realize that he cannot force people to change their eating habits.
In dealing with America’s obesity epidemic government policy needs to examine the big picture. Making our decisions for us will not yield greater long term results, but most likely frustration at the government. Has Mayor Bloomberg heard of the Prohibition in the early 20th century? Changes need to be made that will affect people’s behavior and views towards nutrition. Access to healthy and fresh foods might expose consumers to more culinary options and an emphasis on physical education in schools might encourage healthier habits. Rising costs in agriculture make unhealthy food more affordable, and current health insurance policies help the ill but do little to prevent illness. While Mayor Bloomberg alone cannot curb unhealthy eating, a look at all the factors at play might make his next set of policies more effective.
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