The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has imposed a very controversial legislation. Beginning March 12 next year, the city will prohibit restaurants, delis and other food serving places from selling sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces (a bit less than half a litre). You could still drink more, but you’d have to order two drinks to do that. According to mr. Bloomberg, this legislation is the first serious step in fighting ever-increasing problem of obesity.
What a wonderful idea! When I first heard of it I just could not not like the concept. Firstly, in the world where obesity kills more people than starvation, it is clear that something needs to be done to tackle the problem. It is also clear, that sugary drinks are one of the main reasons for obesity. I already wrote a blog post on the issue. Reducing the standard size of the drink is a very clever idea.
There are numerous studies that show that size does matter indeed. People eat more when they have a larger plate., no matter if they have opportunity for refills. You would almost never pick up 6 single beers from a grocery store, but a six-pack finds its way to your shopping cart easily. There are many heuristic biases influencing your everyday decisions and the “standard size” is definitely one of them.
The ban will not touch grocery stores, gas stations and other places selling “takeaway” drinks. These businesses are regulated by the state and not the city, thus mr. Bloomberg does not have any effective power on them. But by changing the de facto standard serving size in restaurants and alike, the stores will also feel some impact in the longer run. And people will get healthier. Every great journey starts with a small step.