A state appeals court is still considering whether to uphold a lower court's ruling, striking down the Bloomberg administration's soda size cap mandate, but a new study from Columbia University suggests that the ban would reduce obesity without negatively impacting the poor. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
One criticism of the City Health Department's proposal to ban drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, theaters and sports arenas is that it would disproportionately affect the poor. A new study, however, challenges that assertion.
The study, conducted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, finds that the controversial soda ban would reduce obesity without negatively impacting the poor.
"It's more of a mentality problem than an income problem. It's the idea that this is the amount of soda that we should be drinking," says Seanna Vine of the Mailman School of Public Health, who co-authored the report with Dr. Claire Wang. "This isn't a low-income or a high-income problem. As we see, the percentage of people consuming these large beverages is the same across income."
Vine and Wang found that while low-income Americans do consume significant amounts of sugary beverages, they are often buying them from businesses out of the policy's reach.
"This doesn't apply to things like the two-liter bottles of soda that you purchase at a bodega and you drink at home," Vine says.
Vine and Wang analyzed more than 19,000 dietary records from 2007 to 2010. Of the 60 percent of Americans that consume sugary drinks, 7.5 percent purchased 16-ounce beverages or larger from a food establishment.
That number rose to nearly 9 percent when looking specifically at overweight adults and close to 14 percent of obese teenagers.
"If 100 percent of the people switched to the 16-ounce soda, it will be a 100-calorie reduction per day, which is pretty significant and 24 grams of sugar," Vine says. "Even if everyone doesn't follow this policy it still will result in a modest caloric reduction and sugar reduction."
It would particularly occur among overweight and obese people, which city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley points to as proof the cap will benefit those who need help the most.
Vine admits their analysis is limited, and the full impact of the policy can only be measured after it is implemented.