In a previous post, I criticized coverage of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of sugared sodas larger than 16 ounces. None of the stories that I saw told me whether this was likely to work. Surely, I thought, somebody has done research on this; most coverage dealt with whether it was appropriate for the government to meddle with food choices.
This morning, The New York Times has a front-page story by Winnie Hu discussing Bloomberg's efforts to promote the plan. It makes a minor nod to research by asking Kelly Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University and a prominent obesity researcher, what he thinks of the policy. He said making the environment healthier was a better approach than educating people about obesity, and that the Bloomberg plan was "a necessary step" toward curbing obesity. Alas, we get nothing about whether there is data to back up those claims, or whether those assertions are Brownell's educated opinions, or guesses.
If this policy doesn't work, we're expending a lot of time and hot air for nothing. If it works, maybe, on balance, a little more government intrusion is tolerable.
If we don't know whether it works, our opinions are no more durable than the bubbles in a supersized Coke.
- Paul Raeburn