Why Bloomberg’s Soda Ban Didn’t Work

What all the loopholes would have meant in reality, had Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial ban passed.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Why the New York soda ban was doomed anyway: an illustrated guide” was written by Amanda Holpuch and Katie Rogers, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 11th March 2013 22.29 UTC

Raise high your Big Gulps, New York: Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s well-intentioned but near-incomprehensible ban on oversized sodas has been struck down in an eleventh-hour ruling on the eve of its implementation.

New York state supreme court judge Milton Tingling became an instant hero for soda libertarians, conservatives and the carbonated beverage industry when he ruled on Monday that the city’s ban on sugary drinks over 16oz was “arbitrary and capricious”.

Milton said the sheer number of loopholes and exceptions would lead to a “patchwork of enforcement” that would defeat the purpose of the ban.

Bloomberg has said he will appeal the court’s decision, though there is no word yet on whether he will try to pass the ban via the city council instead of ramming it through the board of health. But in anticipation of appeals and further wrangling, here’s our guide to what that labyrinth of loopholes would have meant in practice:

Convenience stores (like all these 7-11s) were exempt

Once the soda ban went into effect, New Yorkers would have been restricted from drinking anything over 16oz at area restaurants or delis – but 32oz, 400-calorie sodas were up for grabs at convenience stores! They were exempted because they don’t require a letter grade from the health department. Even 7-11, the home of the Big Gulp, which as our map shows has more than 20 locations around the city, would have been able to continue selling giant drinks as usual.

Coffee chaos

This is where things would have become really confusing. Baristas would no longer have been able to add sugar to your morning fix, for fear of falling foul of the ban. Nor could they give you a “flavor swirl” – whatever that is. It would be left to customers to add in as much sugar or swirls as they liked.

Giant lattes, however, would have been fine because they are more than 50% milk.

Shoutout to the Dunkin’ Donuts infographic team for making this poster, which miraculously still explains nothing:

Starbucks apparently had no plans to comply with the sugar ban. Your freedom to drink a Trenta-sized frappe won’t be infringed upon, yet.

Alcohol: always safe

Thank god this “exemption” was the easiest part of the ban to remember. Because the mayor knows how much booze it takes for most of us to function under New York’s crush of humanity, alcoholic drinks were never on his radar. And it’s just as well: a limit on the number of 20oz margaritas New Yorkers are able to consume would have resulted in the sort of protests that would have made Occupy Wall Street look tame. Imagine the confiscated tweets.

Buying in bulk

Have you ever been given the side-eye while trying to purchase multiple two-liter bottles of Faygo to mix with your gin? Us neither. That’s why buying in bulk was another of the magical loopholes – to evade the mayor’s health intervention, just order lots of smaller drinks.

Nor would the ban have prevented buying in bulk from vending machines or newsstands, both of which were exempted. And there was no limit on refills, so anywhere with a self-service soda fountain could declare open season on guzzling unlimited amounts of liquid calories.

So in the end, however much one may have applauded Bloomberg’s intent, it’s hard to argue with the judge’s conclusion.

Bloomberg: 0 | Gluttony: 1

 

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