And so, it begins.
Soda makers have launched agressive lobbying efforts in opposition to the New York City soda ban. To be clear, sugar sweetened beverage consumption is a major problem in the U.S. It’s very likely one of the largest drivers of the obesity epidemic. The products have no nutritional value, should be severely restricted in schools, and are primarily useful for science experiments.
That said, I think the soda ban is a bad idea.
New York will argue that the evidence is on it’s side:
There’s an impartial group of health experts who are going to make the decision,” said Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor who is shepherding the proposed ban. “I think they will be influenced by science, and not any P.R. campaign.”
Wolfson is likely referring to evidence of the ill effects of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. On that point, evidence abounds. But, here’s the problem: I’m not aware of any data suggesting that a soda ban will lead to a decrease in consumption. Many other policy strategies — particularly a sugar sweetened beverage tax — have greater potential to reduce the overconsumption. You could really affect consumption by restricting purchases made in supermarkets and other food stores. The New York plan doesn’t do that, likely because it’s not politically feasible.
Indeed, politics of this issue will get more complicated if the plan is implemented. The measure is likely to heighten concerns about government intrusion and might jeopardize the ability to introduce more effective legislation.
There’s no doubt that the ban will have a symbolic effect, but I fear that it’s symbolism won’t be positive.