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New York City’s Sugary Drink Ban Misguided, Stupid

New York City's Sugary Drink Ban Misguided, StupidNew York City’s Board of Health is considering a ban on any sugary-laden drink greater than 16 ounces. The thinking behind this ban is simple — if people won’t control their own intake voluntarily, we — e.g., the government — will do it for them.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed the ban in May, and since Bloomberg appoints the health board, you can imagine which way they’re going to vote on the issue.

The ban is misguided for numerous reasons, but primarily because the ban is really only going to affect what cup sizes a consumer can purchase. Which is just plain stupid. If you still want 32 oz. or more of any sugary drink, you simply buy two 16 oz. cups. Or if you’re dining in at most fast-food restaurants, you have access to self-service drinks — meaning you can get as many refills as you want.

Government — no matter how righteous the cause — shouldn’t go down the slippery slope of trying to regulate citizens’ nutritional intake. While the underlying rationale might make some sense (“People’s obesity is costing us money!”), it’s simply ridiculous to assume such a ban would have any measurable impact on the underlying health problem.

The reason the ban is misguided and stupid is because human behavior isn’t so easily changed by simply passing a law. Apparently the New York City Board of Health and Mayor Bloomberg never studied history. Prohibition wasn’t a failure because lack of good intent or enforcement. It failed because it tried to change human behavior in a society that was acclimated to having access to alcohol.

All this law will likely do is create a lot of publicity around government’s effort to “do something” about the obesity problem. It will create no measurable impact on the problem itself, since fast food drinks are such a tiny percentage of the overall problem.1

The problem — and solution — rests at the feet of all of us. As parents, we have the choice to teach our children moderation when it comes to soda and empty calorie intake. Such lessons begin at home — not in a fast food restaurant.

As adults, we make our own free-will choices to eat unhealthy foods and drinks. And we pay the consequences of those choices — usually limited to ourselves, since it’s our shortened lives we have to deal with (and since most Americans are insured, our insurance that covers it).

Is obesity a growing problem in America and throughout much of the civilized world? Absolutely. But this sort of ban will do nothing to fix the problem, much less address it in any meaningful way.

Why would any of us want greater and greater government intervention in our lives, “for our own good.” While the public health experts and good doctors may mean well, this is not a part of any America the Founding Fathers had envisioned — the government telling its citizens how much of a beverage they can drink.

With the twisted thinking of the NYC health board, it seems like the next logical step would be to start banning large-sized donuts and Double Big Macs and Whoppers. Why wouldn’t you ban or put new limits on every fattening food available?


Read the full article: Pro, con arguments on proposed NY sugary drink ban

New York City’s Sugary Drink Ban Misguided, Stupid


  1. For instance, the law won’t apply to drinks you buy at convenience stores, which is just another layer of silliness. You’ll still be able to buy your Big Gulp — just as I did as a child decades ago. []

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). New York City’s Sugary Drink Ban Misguided, Stupid. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 28 Jul 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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