No seriously…just yesterday NYC approved a law that will place a limit on the size of sugary soda beverages that individuals can purchase at restaurants, delis, and concession stands. In this instance, Lloyd Christmas will literally be kissing those big gulps* goodbye.
The cap for these types of beverages will now be set at 16 ounces. Currently, 16 ounces is the “small” drink at McDonalds while a “large” is 32 ounces. Basically what this means is that the “medium” (21ounces) and “large” sized cups will no longer be needed at these fast food restaurants in NYC once this law becomes enacted (in about 6 months – though expect a lot of counter-suits that will likely slow this down). The ban does not prohibit individual customers from order multiple 16 ounce drinks, or the vendors from offering free refills. It simply sets a limit on the size of the cup for these beverages. Thus, in some sense perhaps the goal is to bring awareness to what a reasonable serving size might be, or at least make people aware of the quantity they are drinking if they constantly have to refill beverages…
Is this a good thing or a bad thing??
Well, that’s a complicated question and has the potential to lead to all kinds of slippery slope arguments. i.e.: Will the government legislate how many vegetables we eat? Well, probably not, but at the same time, we probably also didn’t think that the government would say much about how much soda we drink…
But for those who have seen the movie Super Size Me, or are observant at all regarding America’s growing obesity problem, it may be apparent that we as a general public may need to be “saved from ourselves” so to speak. As portion sizes have steadily gone up over the years (in the 1950’s a drink was 7oz at McDonalds), people have accepted it almost without question and now consider a 16oz drink to be “small” even though it is larger than a standard 12oz can. This has helped to transform and warp our perspective on what constitutes a serving.
And let’s be honest, part of the government’s job is to help protect us as consumers (we just may have never thought that would be in the form of soft drink cup sizes). Smoking bans/taxes, legal limits for alcohol consumption and driving, food additives/quality (many are calling for a huge step up from the government on this one – especially after the pink slime exposure), drug quality, minimum safety requirements for automobiles, and the fairly recent lead based paint regulations are only a few instances where government has had a hand in regulating various things for the general good of the consumer.
One of the interesting things is that at the same time that NYC is attempting to put a ban on soft drink sizes, they are also trying to decriminalize the amount of marijuana that an individual can possess. See this Jon Stewart clip (from the beginning of the summer) to get his take.
So I agree with Stewart that when you juxtapose these two things, it may seem a little ridiculous**. And I agree that we need to be careful about what we allow the government to legislate as far as personal choice and freedom (“Don’t tell me I have to eat my vegetables every day!”). I also agree that obesity in America is complex and won’t be solved completely by cutting down on soft drink sizes (all kinds of eating and exercise habits play into this problem).
But in this case, I don’t think there should be a call to arms against the government. You can still have your soft drinks; they’re not taking them away from you. It might be slightly more annoying to have to get up in the middle of your meal and refill your cup, but you are more than welcome to do that (and maybe those extra 15 steps across the restaurant will be a good thing if you are going back for refills). I’m not completely in love with the ban (I probably wouldn’t have pushed it so hard), but I really think that this will help to bring awareness about reasonable serving sizes, which is a good thing. Maybe people will only refill once (32oz) or even twice (48oz), which is still better than those 64oz big gulps (or those that are even larger). Let’s see how this plays out before deciding that our freedoms and liberties have been trampled on…
*The law will actually count convenience store as shopping centers and the ban will not be imposed there. Thus, the “Big Gulps” that you see at a lot of these 7-11s will still be available for purchase (which is a bit silly, because it seems to me that it was those “mondo”-sized drinks are the ones that the ban should really be after).
**Yes, I realize that being for the decriminalization of marijuana (which I generally am for) while at the same time being okay with this new ban on soft drinks (which I am ok with) seems contradictory. But for me it’s about the awareness and encouragement towards reasonable and moderate serving size when it comes to soft drinks.