As a student with both dentistry and public health training, I have an opinion on Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial legislation on banning restaurants from selling large-sized sodas and sugary drinks. Without getting into the issues on governmental intrusion on personal freedom and choices, I’d like to approach this piece of legislation based on its potential effects of improving public health.
From the public health point-of-view, the legislation intends to help New Yorkers exercise portion control. An ex-McDonald executive David Wallerstein found that it is much easier to sell one supersized portion to people than have them purchase two smaller portions of the same product. Studies have also shown that people have a tendency to eat the food that in front of them, regardless of the portion size. I believe that this supersizing culture is contributory to the obesity and diabetes epidemics that this nation faces. However, I do not believe that this piece of legislation will be effective in actually reducing obesity and diabetes because it does not address other contributory factors such as junk food consumption and insufficient exercise.
From the dental perspective, I do not believe that NYC’s large-sized soda ban will have much impact on reducing the caries rate of the populace. A kid can still drink soda, as well as a myriad of other cariogenic alternatives. Other than modifying the dietary habits or oral hygiene practice of the population, no legislative ban, other than the complete prohibition of sugars (an obviously unrealistic proposition), will have much impact dentally.
This legislation is essentially a pilot program that public health officials implement to combat the obesity and diabetes epidemics of this nation. I will be following up to see whether the potential improvements in health outcome will be worth the cost of implementing the programs as well as restriction on personal freedom and choices.
~Charles Wei, Columbia ’14