Effects of NYC's Portion Cap


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One of New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg's health policies that certainly has countless New Yorkers up in arms is his proposed portion cap on soft drinks and other sugary beverages. In his efforts to lower the rising obesity rates among New York City residents, Mayor Bloomberg has been pushing to prohibit the sale of sweetened drinks sold in cups larger than 16 ounces. These changes would affect business like delis, restaurants, fast food eateries, movie theatres and even sports arenas. With the exception of diet sodas, alcoholic beverages, beverages that are over 70% fruit juice, and some milk based products, these establishments would no longer be able to sell sugar sweetened beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces (about .5 liters).

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Many people disapprove of the proposed bans from various reasons. They range from, the unfair effects the ban can have on small business who are in competition with convenience store chains such as 7- Eleven who won't be affected by the ban, to even the exclusion and limits of certain beverages over others being "arbitrary and capricious". The list goes on but one of the most discussed areas of disapproval has been the alleged negative effect the ban will have on low-income citizens, who tend to drink more soda and sugar beverages than those of their middle to high income counterparts. Those concerned with this affect of the ban also feel that said low-income citizens would also have a harder time getting around the ban by purchasing two 16 ounce beverages instead of one, as they can't easily afford to do so.

Though this seems like a plausible and understandable qualm, the findings of a recent study conducted at Columbia University would beg to differ. Claire Wang, lead researcher of the study found that although obese people are very likely to consume a high number of sodas and other sugary beverages, people eligible for food stamps are actually less likely to be consuming that much. In the data that she analyzed from 19,000 people across the country, she found that on any given day, roughly 68% of people eligible for food stamps have soda as compared to a 54% of people who are not eligible. An article on cbsnews.com also found that overweight and obese people would suffer more than the poor as 8.6% of overweight people consume over 16 ounces of sodas daily as compared to those eligible for food stamps who consume roughly the same amount of soda as those who aren't eligible.

Though the conclusion she drew from her findings may very well be true, it's unclear by how much more the ban would affect the overweight as opposed to those eligible for food stamps. Also, it's unclear whether or not those eligible for food stamps who happen to be overweight are taken into account. In her study, she touches upon the number of people who buy large beverages at restaurants in a day and the age range of those who do. However, I feel that her findings related to the effect the ban will have on overweight and obese people as compared to the affect it will have those eligible for food stamps would be more concrete if she conducted a similar study finding the number of overweight people who consume soda on any given day. She would then directly compare that percentage to that of both, the 68% of people eligible for food stamps who consume soda and the 54% of people not eligible for food stamps who consume soda, showing how much lower those percentages are than the percentage of overweight people who consume soda. This way, all of the numbers would be readily available for whoever reads the study. There would no longer be any questions about how much overweight people will be affected by the proposed portion cap and her point that the overweight and not the low-income will be affected, would be even clearer. 

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