By Robert Lalah
If ever you wanted to stand in the middle of Times Square eating a pretzel and sipping soda from one of those giant Big Gulp cups, you'd better start packing now, because in a few months it will be much harder to pull off.
New York last Thursday became the first city in the United States to impose a ban on super-sized sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban, which takes effect in six months, was proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and is supported by many health campaigners.
It puts a 16-ounce limit on cups and bottles of non-diet soda, sweetened teas and other high-calorie drinks being sold in restaurants and entertainment venues. While that's still enough soda to give you that fizzy fix you desire, it's only half the size of those big, tub-like containers that have become so popular.
Now it's a bold move to be sure, and Bloomberg, for his part, is quite pleased with himself. Last Thursday, he tweeted, "NYC's new sugary drink policy is the single biggest step any gov't has taken to curb obesity. It will help save lives."
To his credit, the mayor has made some groundbreaking moves before that have found favour nationwide, such as making chain restaurants post calorie counts prominently on their menus. A federal requirement could force all major fast-food chains to do the same thing next year. New York City has also barred artificial trans fats from restaurant food and banned smoking in bars, eateries, parks and beaches.
But Bloomberg might have been a bit hasty in declaring this most recent move a victory in the war against obesity. For one thing, there's nothing in the plan to stop sellers from offering free unlimited refills of smaller cups, or to prevent soda lovers from buying 10 cups of Pepsi and having them all at once.
And while you might not be able to get your favourite giant drink at the cinema come March, the ban doesn't cover beverages sold in supermarkets or most convenience stores. It also doesn't apply to any dairy or fruit drinks, many of which are packed with sugar. Alcoholic drinks are also exempted, because apparently, they don't pose a health risk.
Things hardly ever go smoothly when politicians try to get into people's personal affairs in this way. Already, there's pushback with some critics of the ban, saying the obesity epidemic has more to do with lack of exercise and eating too much junk food, like French fries, than it does with drinking too many sweet drinks.
And a group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices has declared that Bloomberg is an out-of-control power-hungry nut.
"If this now, what's next?" the group asked on its website.
Possible in Jamaica? Nah!
I wonder what would happen if the Jamaican Government tried banning unhealthy food and drinks. What if we were told we could only buy one patty per day? Or that dumplings consumed after 6 p.m. should be no larger than a square inch? Seems risky.
In any event, it would likely do little more than give rise to a trade in bootleg spinners and black-market oxtail. Highway spot checks would have to be set up to catch transporters of the illicit food, and anyone caught without a receipt charged with unlawful possession of cow foot (or whatever the specific incident might require). This all sounds like a lot of trouble.
I don't think we have anything to worry about though. Think about it. Bloomberg pushed for this drink ban even though it was highly unpopular. A New York Times poll showed 60 per cent of New Yorkers opposed the move.
There aren't many local politicians who'd
So it seems we have nothing to worry about. We're free to drink big buckets of sugary soda from sunup till sundown while eating as much trans-fatty foods as our hearts can take. Ah, yes, this is the good life.
Robert Lalah is assistant editor - features, and author of 'Roving with Lalah'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
TO OUR READERS:
The Gleaner welcomes your views on any issue. Letters must bear the writer's signature, scripted, printed or typed name, full address and telephone number where possible.
When submitting a pen name, kindly submit full name separately; names and addresses will be withheld on request. Letters to the editor of 300 words or less have the best chance of being published. We routinely condense letters and seek to correct errors of fact, spelling and punctuation. We may use letters in other print and electronic products of The Gleaner Company Ltd.
Please send your letters to The Gleaner Company Ltd, PO Box 40, 7 North Street, Kingston; fax to 922-6223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.