Mississippi comes to defense of large sodas with "anti-Bloomberg" bill

Published On: Mar 16 2013 10:21:43 AM EDT
Updated On: Mar 16 2013 11:46:20 AM EDT

New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to slap a ban on sugar-sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces.

A New York judge isn’t the only one taking aim at New York City’s ban on large, sugary drinks.

In a move to prevent such regulations from taking hold elsewhere, Mississippi legislators have passed an “anti-Bloomberg bill” that bars counties from passing and enacting laws that require calorie counts to be posted or caps the size of beverages or foods.

The legislation is now on Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk and NPR reports that he is expected to sign it. Mississippi, it’s worth noting here, already has the highest obesity rate in the country.

Whether states will follow the example of Mississippi or New York remains to be seen. On the one hand, a number of public health regulations pioneered in New York City (required posting of calorie counts, to name one that’s in the Affordable Care Act) have gone on to become national laws. On the other, the large soda ban is not exactly a popular law: Six in ten New Yorkers oppose it.

One factor that could tip the balance in New York’s favor: Americans tend to be surprisingly supportive of restrictive laws aimed at improving public health. The Harvard School of Public Health recently polled 1,187 adults on a slew of public health regulations that aim to do everything from reduce obesity to cutting smoking rates.

A number of the policies in the survey got widespread support. Seventy-five percent supported barring food stamps from being used on sugary beverages (New York City actually tried to do this, but was shot down by the federal government). The same number liked the idea of requiring chain restaurants to reduce their sodium contents (New York City also tried to do this, and failed).

Eighty-percent liked required posting of calorie labels.

There were some regulations that went too far for the respondents: The majority opposed making possession of junk food or sodas a disciplinary offense. Only 37 percent thought that insurers should be allowed to charge the obese a $50 surcharge on their premiums.

Tthe Harvard survey didn’t ask about a ban on large, sugary drinks, so we don’t know from this research whether that specific restriction would garner much support. But the numbers do suggest that lots of people are open to a role for government in regulating unhealthy foods.

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