Now in his third and final term as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg has, yet again, sparked media and public frenzy with his recent propositions.
Passing laws such as the mayoral regulation of the public school system and the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars that eventually led to the entire country to follow suit, Bloomberg has single-handedly been able to spark national attention multiple times during his career.
Bloomberg’s latest effort is to try to increase the overall health of the citizens of New York City.
Bloomberg’s plan focuses on reducing obesity by proposing a ban on sugary drinks more than 16 oz. in various locations such as restaurants and sporting events.
“I’ve got to defend my children, and yours, and do what’s right to save lives. Obesity kills. There’s no question it kills,” said Bloomberg after the bill was recently denied by the Supreme Court earlier this month.
Although Bloomberg’s bill may not have passed, it has created awareness of the need to address the harrowing statistics of the current obesity population in the United States.
“In my view, obesity is America’s biggest public-health problem,” said Dr. Charles Ballard, Professor of Economics at Michigan State Univeristy. “Thus I am glad if we are at least tiptoeing in the direction of trying to do something about it.
However, Ballard said Bloomberg’s proposed bill would have had little effect had it been passed.
“I doubt whether this law will have much of an effect in New York City, and I doubt whether a similar law in Michigan would do much,” he said. “The problem is that there is no limit on how many 16-oz. drinks a person can get.”
Gitanjali Singh, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, has devoted the past five years to studies on the many health effects of sugary drinks. Using 2010 public health surveys from around the world, Singh and her team have established that sugary drinks have caused 133,000 deaths due to diabetes, 44,000 deaths due to cardiovascular disease, and 6,000 deaths due to cancer.
With this topic now a major health concern addressed in almost every national publication, many Americans feel that now is the time to take action, by halting the frighteningly high number of fatalities due to obesity.
The question then becomes centered around Bloomberg’s proposal: Is his plan the most economical and efficient to tackle this issue?
Nutritional sciences senior Sophia Hemmric said she thinks Bloomberg’s plan may not be the most effective way to tackle the issue of obesity, but applauds him for taking action.
“It is a personal choice how much soda to drink, what kind of food to buy, and how frequently to exercise,” said Hemmric. “At the same time, many people are uneducated about healthy diet and lifestyle and do not fully comprehend the consequences of consuming large volumes of sugary drinks.”
Kinesology sophomore Daryn Portman said childhood education is important when it comes to to reducing obesity.
“[Education] would help decrease obesity in some ways, but one of the most important things as well is to exercise,” said Portman. “I think if Bloomberg incorporated exercise, or promoted it more in childrens’ education, people would see his bill as more do-able.”
Ballard said lack of physical activity is now proving to cause economical effects that will inevitably affect American populations, healthy or not, as a whole.
“I once saw an estimate that America spends $200 billion per year on health-care expenditures that would not be necessary if we weren’t so overweight,” said Ballard. “The population is getting fatter at an alarmingly rapid rate, which means that those health-care costs will continue to rise, unless people change their behaviors.”
Many have stated this bill is too extreme and a violation of basic constitutional rights, but others feel that it could be the answer that America has been looking for to jump start this battle.
“In order to ‘save the general public’, some drastic changes need to happen,” said Hemmrich. “And I think that banning soda over 16 oz. is the fastest way to alleviate the problems.”
Certainly getting many people thinking, how would you react if during your late night outing to Taco Bell the soda cup you received was half of the normal size? With Michael Bloomberg’s bills passed often radiating across the entire United States, this could potentially be a very real scenario many people will have to become accustomed to.
“Ultimately, obesity becomes an issue of national security,” said Ballard “If we don’t have a ban on big sugary drinks, and if we don’t put a tax on sugar content, I think we still need to do something.”
Currently Mayor Bloomberg has intentions of appealing the Supreme Court decision, with the belief that the next time around his bill will become law.