The Soda Ban or the Portion Cap Rule
The “Soda Ban” that was labeled by the New York City as the “Portion Cap Rule,” was adopted by the City’s Board of Health in September 2012 (Citron & Bartholomew, 2013). The rule was intended to be effected in March 2013. It was to restrict restaurants, fast-food joints, sports stadiums, and other established places for offering food related services serving sugar-sweetened drinks in sizes that are larger than 16 ounces. The city effected to rule as a way of addressing the alarming rates of obesity. All the members of the board that had been constituted by the mayor to foresee health issues passed the law except one. Even though it was called the “Soda Ban,” the rule was not aimed at banning soda consumption but rather intended to regulate the sizes of containers used to serve sodas and other sugary drinks. Prior to its taking effect, it was challenged in court and the Supreme Court of the County of New York judged that the rule was invalid. Such decision was ratified by the Appellate Division’s First Department. The courts maintained that the Health Board had gone against the provision of the doctrine of power separation since it was authorized to have the rule adopted (Citron & Bartholomew, 2013).
The Portion Cap Rule was the work of two City agencies: the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City and the City’s Board of Health. The agencies were responsible for the supervision and regulation of all health related issues in the city. They were to look into all aspects and conditions that were considered to be hazardous to life and health. The agencies could only achieve their mandate by regulating and exerting their regulation over all the activities related to food and drug supply in the City. They also achieved their objectives by enforcing New York City’s Health Code provisions (Citron & Bartholomew, 2013).
In its briefs and defence to the court, the City made attempts to persuade the court that the government needed to take immediate action to curb the alarming rate of obesity. The City reasoned that the Portion Cap Rule was aimed at regulating the manner in which businesses sold a product whose excessive consumption would have adverse implications on people’s health. Obesity was seen as a health crisis that necessitated an immediate response in a move to curb its continuous spread and regretted implications. The City took adequate time to describe the level that obesity cases had reached and demonstrated a clear connection between obesity and sugary beverages such as soda (Blazer, 2014).
In essence, the idea of the “Portion Cap Rule” was mainly used to neutralize negative perceptions that would emerge from the introduction of the rule. It was an intentional effort to cover the real intentions of the rule under the disguise that the rule had strong scientific support. In this restructured rule, the name “soda” or “sugary drinks” was not mentioned, and there were no indications that the rule would deprive consumers of their choices and freedom. Assessing the meaning behind the two notions, the “Soda Ban” and the “Portion Cap Rule,” it was evident that there was a mismatch in the real objective of the rule. The “Soda Ban” rule would have great impact on consumers, while the “Portion Cap Rule” would basically regulate issues affecting health without a specific mention of a beverage (Blazer, 2014).
The soda container rule was largely disputed due to issues relating to the framing of the controversy. The petitioners in the court case initially referred to the rule as “the ban” in their brief before the First department. Such term was understood to portray an authoritarian edict, which indicated that consumers would be deprived of their freedom to consume some beverages. The framing of the rule did not show any sign of granting consumers their freedom of choice on which beverage to consume. It instead showed an attempt by the Board of Health to deny consumers an opportunity to purchase and consume soda. “The portion Cap Rule” was a term framed by the city in contrast to the notion behind the “Soda Ban.” It was intended to be neutral and to indicate a scientific reasoning behind the rule (McGrath, 2014).
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Based on the controversies observed in the framing of the rule, it would be essential that its real intentions be made clear before it was considered as a substantial measure that would present a remedy to Obesity, as a health crisis. With the contradictory interpretation of the “Soda Ban” and the “Portion Cap Rule,” it was clear that the approval and implementation of the rule could have great implications on a majority of people. The majority of the council members also lived in districts that were known to be housing many small businesses. The current version of the rule would render many business people jobless, largely limit consumers’ freedom and choices hence it would still be less acceptable (Nestle, 2013).
Additionally, the state’s highest court reaffirmed the fact that the authority to regulate sugary drink consumption was bestowed upon the city council’s hands. I agree that the legislative body ought to be given time to research on the level of impact that consumption of sugary drinks had on people’s health with respect to obesity. Then, it can decide how to proceed, in case there is a need to regulate the consumption of soda in the city.
The soda ban or the portion cap rule was developed based on a significant reasoning. The main problem that subjected the rule to several criticisms was the fact that the rule was not well framed. While the “Soda Ban” signifies a complete withdrawal of soda consumption, the “Portion Cap Rule” gave an indication of a regulatory rule that would help to reduce cases of obesity in the city. I feel that it is essential for the rule to be properly structured so that its mode of implementation becomes clear. It should not be intended at limiting consumers’ choices and freedom neither should it render small business persons jobless.