By AMEER MALIK, junior
IN SEPTEMBER of last year, the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on sugary drinks from being sold in restaurants and movie theaters or by street vendors in containers larger than sixteen ounces. The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, believes that this regulation, which will come into effect on March 12, 2013, is an important step toward combating obesity across the country. This bold move by New York City may also serve as a precedent for other cities in the United States, and similar measures may be taken elsewhere in the nation in the near future.
Yet many are annoyed by this restriction and feel that this ban is too strict, believing that it is not the responsibility of a city government to act as a “parent” for its people. However, the soda ban is a genuinely helpful policy that should be upheld. This ban is not merely about the availability and negative health effects of Big Gulps and Super-Sized drinks. Rather, it is part of a larger issue — should those who have the means to enforce restrictions on others do so if it is for the restricted group’s own good?
It is common courtesy to act with care and kindness toward others and to avoid causing others harm. We all wish that anyone with the means and capability to do so will help us face the hardships and crises that we may encounter; this is why we feel the need to aid others when they are facing their own problems.
Thus, restricting people from hurting themselves falls in line with moral behavior: it is not meddlesome, nor is it intrusive. We would not want people around us whom we care about to face any sort of harm. If someone has a terrible smoking habit, a good friend of his would urge the smoker to stop in order to preserve his friend’s health. The friend could introduce him to addiction recovery groups or buy nicotine patches for him. Similarly, if a student were completely hooked on social media websites, a considerate peer would urge this student to stay away from the computer so that the student’s grades don’t suffer, utilizing software to block time-wasting sites. How can anyone possibly allow someone else to suffer if coming to his or her aid requires something as simple as a few words or some light restrictions?
Some may say that if people truly want to engage in self-damaging behavior, then they will find a way to do so. For example, your computer-addicted friend could use a library computer or your smoking friend could miss meetings with his support group. While no one can completely force somebody else to change his or her lifestyle, suggestions can definitely be made and guidance can be offered. Still, it is our duty to at least limit these people’s access to such detrimental items, making it more difficult for them to hurt themselves.
New York City is tired of having people die from obesity-related causes and wants to make it more difficult for people to become obese or overweight. A twenty-year study conducted on 120,000 men and women by the Harvard School of Public Health reported that sugary drinks contribute immensely to obesity. This study also showed that people who drank twelve ounces of a sugary beverage in addition to their usual daily consumption were more likely to gain weight than those who did not; this clearly shows that sugar-filled juices and sodas are damaging to the body. Restricting the sales of such beverages is another step toward reducing obesity.
This law does not entirely infringe upon the right for a New Yorker to consume huge quantities of sugary beverages; someone who really wants to can purchase multiple sixteen-ounce servings even when the thirtytwo-ounce cups are banned. This freedom, this right, is still available — it is simply more inconvenient for people to harm their own health. Paying for two drinks would obviously cost more than paying for one and handling two or more drinks at a time could be a hassle. Those who are so dependent on sugary beverages that they cannot give them up will turn to these alternatives, but others who might be only mildly dependent or just slightly excessive in their habits would decrease their consumption and thus cause less harm to themselves.
For these reasons, this new policy on soda bans in New York City, as well as similar policies that might be implemented in the future, should be executed across the country. This ban is not a product of a city government’s wish to oppress its inhabitants. On the contrary, it stems from true compassion for the people.