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Mike Bloomberg’s war on Big Sugar

By Jonathan J. Ariel - posted Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Since winning office, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has banned smoking in public, stopped the use of trans fats in city restaurants and compelled food providers to list the calories served on their menus.

Last Thursday, he publicly exposed the latest bee in his bonnet: he’s angling for a fight against sugary drinks, commonly known as ‘sodas’ in the United States. It’s a war he thinks is worth fighting, even if he losses a couple of battles on the way. And it’s a conflict whose time has surely come, many would argue.

Speaking to NBC News the mayor acknowledged both that the war on obesity is the biggest national health issue in the country and, that it is one war with very few victories to date. And he wants to change all that.


In order to reduce the numbers of Americans that become overweight as well as improve the health of those already super sized, the mayor wants to limit the size of sugary beverages available in sports grounds, cinemas and food courts.

Contrary to his detractors (i.e. the lobbyists and Big Sugar’s marketing geniuses with their toe tapping tunes) but also TV talk show hosts hitching their wagons to what they perceive is the populist view), the mayor this time is not planning a tax on sugar, nor is he outlawing the sale of sodas.

He simply wants to tackle obesity in a new way.

He wants to give consumers cues to be alert to just how much they are drinking and to what exactly it is they are gulping down. He wants to do this by outlawing the sale of bucket like cups of soft drinks.

The sugary drink industry (through its lobbyists) has been downplaying the connection between its products and weight gain for 50 years, even though there is vast data that proves a linkbetween drinking soda pop and expanding waistlines.

While drinking small amounts (say 7 oz or 200 ml) of soda pop shouldn’t make a significant difference to a consumer’s waistline, many quick service restaurants very often supply trough sized 32 oz drinks. That's a whopping 900 mls containing the equivalent of 25 sugar cubes and weighing in at 400 calories or 1,680 kJ. It’s the consumption of such quantities that’s fuelling the epidemic of obesity.


By making consumers cognisant of the harm they are inflicting on their bodies and on the public health care system when they put away large volumes of soda pop, the mayor hopes consumer behaviour will be modified. His aim is for folk to drink smaller quantities or failing that, to drink multiple regular sized drinks rather than a super sized drink. At least that way they will see the error of their ways. And hopefully curb them.

The Mayor is not alone.

New York City’s Commissioner for Health & Mental Hygiene, Dr. Thomas Farley is convinced that sugar results in weight gain and that action is needed to arrest this scourge.

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About the Author

Jonathan J. Ariel is an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He can be contacted at

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