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Mayor Bloomberg: Soda Bad, Doughnuts Okay

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If Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way, there’s going to be some serious downsizing in New York City. No, it’s not about cutting government waste or cracking down on financial institutions betting the farm with federally insured deposits.  

Hizzoner is putting the hammer down on sugary soft drinks -- specifically, the oversized variety. A ban proposed at a news conference on Thursday by New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley would have the city slurping up the very last of its Big Gulps. No longer would restaurants, delis, and movie theaters covered by Health Department regulations be able to sell sodas in containers over 16 ounces.

That'll certainly put a damper on Taco Bell's (YUM) morning Mountain Dew (PEP).

In the era of super-sizing, 20-ounce soft drinks have become the norm, with fast food cups going as high as 32 ounces. But once upon a time, McDonald’s (MCD) sold soda in 7-ounce cups and those glass Coca-Cola (KO) bottles were an itty bitty 6.5 ounces. Yet somehow people managed not to die of dehydration or sugar underload.

Before crying “big brother” it should be noted that consumers are not prohibited from refilling their 16-ounce cups or buying more than one drink at a time. But the thinking is that people probably won’t miss the excess. They merely drink the extra soda because it’s still coming through their straws.  

And if you want to talk about a nanny state, consider the cost New Yorkers are paying in health care for its uninsured citizens. Obesity-related diseases -- including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension -- claim 5,000 lives per year. They are the city’s leading cause of preventable death, second only to smoking at 7,000 deaths a year.

But the smoking numbers are dropping, thanks in part to the citywide ban imposed by Bloomberg in 2003. The following year, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the law prevented 3,813 hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction and stroke in 2004, and saved $56 million in health-care costs.

Curiously enough, all refined sugars are not created equal. In the same breath the mayor is lambasting copious cola drinks as the culprit of our public health crisis, he’s also lauding doughnuts. The administration issued a proclamation on Friday declaring it Doughnut Day in New York.

“It sounds ridiculous,” Matt Lauer said to Bloomberg during an interview on the “Today” show.

“C’mon, it doesn’t sound ridiculous,” Bloomberg shot back. “One doughnut’s not going to hurt you. In moderation, most things are O.K.”

Most things, with the exception of sugary beverages over 16 ounces.
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