NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- It hasn't taken two spoons of sugar to make New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on sugary drinks in excess of 16 ounces per serving go down well with plenty of high-powered people.
In fact, he’s recorded the best of the soda ban backers on the New York City Mayor’s Office web site.
There are other voices speaking up about the bold soda ban, though, who you won't find featured on Mayor Bloomberg's site.
For instance, the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart says the Bloomberg ban is a Coke lid too far:
“I love this idea you have of banning sodas larger than 16 oz.,” Stewart told his television audience on May 31, 2012. “It combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect.”
Stewart says the ban is the soda straw that broke the camel’s back. “What are you doing, Mr. Bloomberg?,” he added. “We already let you make up a third term as mayor, put cameras on every intersection and, for some reason, picnic tables in the middle of 7th avenue … what the heck is that? This is all we have!”
Now two Cornell University professors have taken a slightly more serious approach to arguing that Bloomberg's tough talk will mean very little in the tough fight against obesity, saying in their own words of "tough love" for the mayor that his ban may be a fool’s mission that is “doomed to failure.”
David Just and Brian Wansink, economics professors at the Dyson School at Cornell University, say the Bloomberg ban has its merits, but it tends to discriminate against lower-class Americans, and may act as a tax against those who can least afford it.
“There is a huge cost to the potential failure of this type of measure, which disenfranchises price-sensitive portions of the population; it would set back what we are doing well in the fight against obesity,” said Just in a statement.
“Why are they avoiding fruit juices, avoiding chocolate shakes, lattes, and whatever else with similar amounts of calories or larger portions?,” the Cornell professor asked. “This proposed ban is targeting a certain group of people. I also worry that this is a little bit of a regressive tax: It is not directly targeting obesity; it is targeting soda. Sodas overall are a pretty small part of the equation when it comes to obesity.”
For his part, Wansink says the ban is flat-out unworkable and may actually work against a low-income consumer’s health.
“People buying super-sized sodas want their 32-ounce soft drinks and will find a work-around to the ban,” he adds. “They’ll go to a place that offers fountain refills, or they’ll buy two. If they don’t have much money, they might cut back on fruits or vegetables or a bit of their family meal budget.”
What do both academics see as a sweeter alternative?
Wansink says a public/private program to highlight the dangers of too much soda and a discount programs to wean them off the sugary stuff would be a good start.
“Consumers hate bans but they love promotions,” he says. “There is a better way: Soft drink companies and restaurants make money by selling beverages—not sugar. By working with these companies, New York City could discover new ways to better promote lower calorie options.”
“We should be encouraging sales of healthier beverages -- using a carrot instead of a stick. This approach would be welcomed by struggling retailers and manufacturers alike,” Wansink argues.
Add one more worthwhile campaign to the sugary mix, courtesy of Cornell's economics teams, but considering how much mainstream Americans love their Big Gulps, it’s a campaign that could itself end up a few ounces short of succeeding.