I have been following the work of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban large sugar-sweetened drinks in New York City. He and others claim that large-sized (over 16 ounces) containers of high-sugar drinks contribute to diabetes and obesity. The proposed ban can be viewed as a public health measure.
From a behavior change standpoint, a ban is a hard-stop technique and often generates considerable resistance as it limits choice or liberty and challenges stakeholders that profit from the existing behavior. Indeed, this is clearly illustrated in the latest news, Judge Throws Out NYC’s Ban on Large Sugary Drinks. For example, the chief lobbyist of the NYC chapter of the National Association of Theater Owners is quoted as saying:
“You can’t force people to do things, and that’s what today’s decision shows. You can’t tell people what to drink and where to drink it,”
One alternative to a hard stop is a nudge. Rather than ban large sugary drinks you make the healthier options more appealing and naturally available. Of course, implementing a nudge requires the cooperation of just the groups that want to sell more drinks.
The judge’s ruling will be appealed so Bloomberg’s experiment in using government to curb the obesity epidemic in the US will continue. I am interested to hear from readers. Should we ban such drinks?