Bloomberg’s Sweet Revenge?

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

soda_kidA recent study by Columbia University researchers may present a problem for civil libertarians basking in the defeat of Mayor Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban. As many of us know, the NYC mayor proposed and then passed a health rule  prohibiting restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas from selling sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. The New York State appellate division upheld Judge  Milton Tingling’s ruling that Bloomberg “eviscerated” the separation of powers doctrine by making an end run around  the City Council and presenting the measure to the NYC Board of Health. The city plans to appeal but it is now armed with an important study concerning the effects of sugar on children.

The new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, links sugar consumption with aggressive, and violent behavior in children as young as 5 years old. Researchers followed 3000 mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities. from birth to age 5 years. The mother’s were asked to self-report their child’s consumption of soda and then to answer a series of behavioral questions.  The results were stunning. Children who consumed as little as four servings of sugary soft drinks per day were twice as likely to engage in “aggressive violent behaviors – such as destroying other people’s belongings, starting physical fights and verbally attacking other children. ” In addition, the sugar dosed kids had trouble concentrating and became more socially withdrawn than kids who didn’t imbibe. But even one serving of soda triggered behavioral problems in the young children:

“There was a dose response,” said Shakira Suglia, study author and associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. “With every increase in soda consumption, we saw an increase in behavior problems. It was significant for kids who consumed as few as one serving of soda per day.”

The researchers pointed out that Americans buy more soda per capita than any other people in the world. They also said that  other contributing factors like parenting styles, exposure to violent programming, hard candy consumption,  and socio-economic factors were controlled yet the same correlation persisted raising the specter of “Sugar Rage”  in young children. The study does have drawbacks since researchers relied on parents to self-report and couldn’t say precisely the size of the dose or the type of soda offered, but the deleterious effects of sugar and sugar substitutes are well-known in the medical community especially when it comes to kid consumers.

“Despite the multitude of studies exposing the negative effects of soda consumption, Americans continue to buy and drink more soda than those in any other country,” said Marlo Mittler, registered dietician from Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, and not affiliated with the study. “In an effort to reduce the effects on a child’s possible negative behavior, it is suggested to eliminate or avoid any soda consumption.”

If the studies are true and sugar represents a clear hazard to children’s health and behavior should it be treated like other child unfriendly substances like alcohol and tobacco?  State supreme courts around the nation and the United States Supreme Court (Lorillard v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525 (2001))  have universally held that these drugs may be excluded from purchases by those under age 18 for health and safety reasons.  In Lorillard, the tobacco company didn’t even contest that the state had an important interest in preserving the health of minors by restricting sales of tobacco products.

What then of the Bloomberg ban on not the sugar but the method of delivery of the sugar? Shouldn’t the state have the right to restrict the amount of consumption of a known hazardous substance to children? Isn’t this state prerogative especially necessary when the harm isn’t just limited to the youthful consumer but to children in his immediate vicinity who might be harmed?  And if not, under what basis can we restrict the sale of tobacco and alcohol or any other harmful substance to minors? Does our freedom to consume hold sway over even children’s health and well-being of those they may come into contact with?

Interesting questions that the courts in New York will have to answer if the researchers at Columbia have stumbled onto something that will make the Tobacco Wars against Big Tobacco look like a pillow fight.

Read the study here.

Source: CNN; Journal Pediatrics

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

77 thoughts on “Bloomberg’s Sweet Revenge?”

  1. Gene H:

    The problem with you is that you rely on wikipedia for too much.

    Water doesnt just cease to exist, there is much oil left to be found, technology will improve food production.

    I believe you do know more about complexity theory than I do. I dont believe in complexity, if something looks complex then something is wrong, I am in to simplicity. What is the essence of a thing?

    I always tried to use as few steps as possible to solve an engineering or math problem. Same for programming, the fewer steps the better. Get to the essence, too many people get bogged down in complexity which can lead to chaos.

  2. Bron,

    Could you be more succinct? “That” is a distillation of Mike’s writing which you have not defined. Define “that” please.

  3. Mike Spindell:

    Do you really believe that? I am really surprised you believe that way.

  4. Gene H:

    I am pretty sure you are incorrect about JJR and our revolution. The founders may have read him but Locke and others like him were the philosophical roots. The Declaration is based on Locke’s conception of liberty without doubt.

  5. Bron,

    Actually, it was a pretty heady blend of both “traditions” that led to the founding of America. A point often missed by the proclivity to put things in boxes. Rousseau was as important as Locke. Hume as important as de Tocqueville. All were familiar to and used as a base by the Founders. However, I do agree that Jefferson was more French in approach although I think he was that way early on. His time in France made a lasting impression on him.

    As for potable water? The only good news on that front is glacial runoff has been found to not be as critical to potable water as once thought. (Scientific American: The bad news is that population growth is still outstripping water sources which are increasingly polluted by industrial and agricultural runoff.

    Water shortages around the world will become more severe as the world’s population continues to grow, especially in urban areas, according to a new study led by The Nature Conservancy’s Rob McDonald.

    The study, “Urban Growth, Climate Change and Freshwater Availability,” looks at cities specifically with populations of 100,000 or more in developing countries, including those in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

    Close to one billion urban residents could face severe water famine by 2050 as climate change impacts urban areas around the world, with Indian cities potentially becoming the most highly affected areas, according to the study.

    Global water shortages could have a huge impact on sanitation in some of the world’s fastest-growing urban areas, but also poses a risk on wildlife, especially if cities have to pump water from outside, according to the study.

    The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that by 2050, if current trends continue, 993 million urban citizens will have to get by on less than 26 gallons of water each day — the daily minimum.

    “Imagine living on less than a bathtub of water for all your daily needs: drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes and everything else,” said McDonald. “What we’ve found in our research is that — thanks to the combination of climate change and explosive urban population growth — this scenario could become a reality for billions of people around the globe by 2050.”

    More than 150 million people currently live in cities with continuing water shortages of less than 26 gallons available each day. McDonald’s study projects that this number will grow to 1 billion by 2050, especially in Asia and Africa, because of demographic shifts.

    In addition to those numbers, another 3.1 billion people in urban settings worldwide will have seasonal water shortages where at least one month out of a year 26 gallons or less of water will be available per person per day. China and India will be the most highly impacted countries because of rapid urbanization.

    But, “don’t take the numbers as destiny. They’re a sign of a challenge,” McDonald told AFP.

    It isn’t too late for urban and natural resource managers to prepare for these challenges. Landscape management and efficient use of water would help in reducing the impacts of climate change. Reducing agricultural, industrial and residential water consumption now is essential.” –

    Water shortage is a growing problem, but one that technology can mitigate in combination with efforts to stabilize and reduce population growth. But it is a problem.

    Same with top soil. We aren’t just losing more of it due to deforestation and erosion. What we are using is becoming increasingly stressed by overuse and losing critical nutrient value difficult to replace by artificial means. Changing agricultural processes can mitigate this, but as population grows, so does the demand for food. This in turns leads to less sustainable soil management practices in agriculture in favor of artificially derived fertilizer which is merely a stop gap measure at best.

    Oil? Peak oil has been reached, Bron. The Hubbert Peak Model not only accurately predicted American peak oil in the 70’s some twenty years before it happened, that same model shows global peak oil is happening right now and production will effectively end sometime around 2200 but that by 2050 the steepest part of the decline will have happened.

    Potable water, top soil and oil are finite resources. The idea that oil will suddenly appear via technology is magical thinking. The geological processes that create oil operate on geological time scales: they take hundreds of thousands of years. Once the supply is run through, it’s effectively gone for a period probably longer than the period homo sapiens sapiens have inhabited the planet. Technology can mitigate some of the effects of running out, but it cannot change that we will run out of them if demand outstrips the supply. And what drives demand? Population.

    You may not think a Malthusian dilemma is possible. That’s delusional thinking. All resources are local. All resources are finite.

    And yes, I do know more about complexity than you do. You’ve proven before that your understanding of Chaos Theory is substandard and that is what CT primarily addresses: stability and instability in complex systems. However, if you just want to rehash that and once again demonstrate you have a substandard grasp of the subject, I’d suggest we save that for another time.

    You’ve already sufficiently demonstrated the kind of unrealistic thinking that extremism produces.

  6. I wasnt trying to distract, I was curious what your thoughts were on those since you did not flesh them out in your post.

    I think you are wrong about the French though. That way led to the Guillotine. The English tradition led to the founding of America.

    What is interesting is that Jefferson, toward the end of his life, was thinking in the French tradition at least in a couple of letters I read.

    None of the 3 items listed are in short supply. Top soil can be made as it has a large organic component. Potable water is another made up frenzy of the left. I have been watching that percolate for a few years now. I guess it is starting to move into the professional class. Hayek has a good essay on how bad ideas like this are disseminated. Professionals, who dont know much, are usually the culprits.

    There is only a technological limitation on oil supply. We always find more as we improve our technology.

    You and Malthus, wrong then, wrong now. But I am sure you know more about complexity than I do.

    1. “I think you are wrong about the French though. That way led to the Guillotine.”


      Where I think you get things wrong is that you see movements as led by ideas rather than the personal quirks of human beings. This is why I am against violent revolutions, since what the violence begets is leadership by violent people with sociopathic tendencies. The excesses of the French Revolution were the result of people’s hatred boiling over and certainly not rational thought by philosophers.

      P.S. The American Revolution was not a revolution per se. It was the overthrow of a foreign power. Revolution in my terminology is an internal affair.

  7. First, I’m pretty sure I have a better grasp of complexity than you.

    Second, if it wasn’t offered as counter, what good is it?

    Third, that’s a nice example of an attempt at distraction by the fallacy of many questions. However:

    a) potable water, top soil, oil to name three.
    b) Never. Because it’s a fantasy that ends in tyranny and/or anarchy.
    c) Everything. He was a binary and somewhat limited thinker despite his fame.
    d) Certainly not nationality as Hayek rather arbitrarily decided that some French writers like Montesquieu and Tocqueville belonged to the “British tradition” (which embraced empiricism and the common law) and the British writers Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Paine as part of the “French tradition” (which embraced rationalism). A balanced understanding of law and its philosophical underpinnings embraces both empiricism and rationalism as both are of high utility in both analysis of the law and in formulation of the rule of law based on reason (Kant’s Categorical Imperative which dictates that all duties and obligations derive from reason). Not to mention that empiricism is the foundation of modern evidentiary standards and forensic science as is rationalism in addition to being the underpinning of sound legal argumentation. Any extremist approach is inherently unbalanced and invites irrationality and belief to take precedent over empirical analysis and evidence as understood in the light of rationalism. That is how you end up with people like theocrats, neoconservatives, neoliberals and big L Libertarians. They all engage in wishful and/or magical thinking based in extremist positions that have little or no basis in reality.

  8. I just hate it when the ignorant news media try to present scientific findings as if they knew what they were talking about. The relationship between sugar and child behavior has been studied ad nauseam for decades. The scientific consensus resulting from dozens of studies is that there is no clear-cut causal connection between sugar consumption and child behavior. Read the conclusion of a meta-analysis by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization here:
    “A meta-analysis of 23 studies which had been conducted over a period of 12 years from 1982 to 1994 has been completed (205), to test the hypothesis that sugar (mainly sucrose) affects the behaviour or cognitive performance of children. This analysis did not find support for the hypothesis. In conclusion, there is little objective evidence to suggest that sugar significantly alters the behaviour or cognitive performance of children.”

    This new study represents a *correlation*, and as everyone knows, correlation does not equal causation. Typically there are dozens of unmeasured variables that can account for a correlation. In the present case, the data on both soda consumption and child behavior were based on self-reports from mothers. Perhaps mothers who lack skills in controlling their children’s behavior also feed their children lots of crap, like soda. Perhaps most of the soda contained caffeine (e.g., Coke, Mt. Dew). There are dozens of explanations for this spurious correlation. The authors themselves state, “it could be a host of other things” besides sugar or even soda.

    I’m a social scientist. I have no relationship whatsoever with the sugar industry, and make no claims about the relationship between sugar and obesity or health problems. I’m merely critiquing a study being taken out of context (out of the context of dozens of years of previous research) and blown out of proportion (one study does not make a scientific finding).

  9. Gene H:

    what resources are strained by over-population?

    when have we had laissez faire?

    What did Hayek like to put into “boxes”?

    What “divides” French and British?

  10. Gene H:

    “Also, “I didnt know you had a sense of humor” isn’t a counterargument.”

    It wasnt meant to be a counter-argument.

  11. Gene H:

    I dont think there is any doubt nature is very complex. More, certainly, than you realize. Nature follows certain, undeniable patterns which are understandable and unchanging. Otherwise we couldnt figure it out and we would not exist.

    A sun will always rise somewhere.

  12. Bob,

    As you well know, I’m a hardcore soft rule utilitarian so in that regard I am a classical liberal in the social sense, but I am a Keynesian and a social democrat when it comes to economics. Actually I think it started with the adoption by some of the totally unrealistic laissez-faire economic doctrine and running with it to the extreme. It’s inherently incompatible with the notion of the rule of law and requires some really wishful thinking both about the nature of markets and basic human nature. In addition, some of the scattershot approaches to classical liberalism that came from the false division of the “British tradition” and the “French tradition”. Hayek liked to put things in boxes and these boxes are both arbitrary and of low utility as some writers in both traditions have something of value to offer. The “losing of the way” is rooted there if I had to pinpoint it. The truth is though, much like classical conservatism, that the divergence is not traceable to any single cause and instead rests on manifold changes both within each school of thought and in society as a whole as impacted by rapidly changing technology and ever scarcer resources strained by overpopulation.

  13. LJM,

    Today’s liberal suffers from the delusion that we derive our rights from the government. It’s a belief that for all problems we begin with the premise that the government is all powerful and shall dispense rights as they happen to conform to policy. When in reality the opposite is true; the government derives its limited, specifically enumerated powers from the rights of the people.

    Rights confer power; not vice versa.

  14. I just find it odd that if you’re a classical liberal, you’re essentially a conservative.

    While I can understand opposition to a welfare state and other large government programs could be considered “conservative,” I don’t see how the classical liberal positions on things like personal autonomy, civil rights, criminal justice, and foreign policy could be considered so.

    On those issues, classical liberals and libertarians are more liberal than the leaders of the Democratic party.

  15. Sorry, Bron. The notion that reality is binary is the stuff of fantasy. The universe is analog, a bell curve where extremes are at the far ends and rare. Extremism – the holding of extreme political or religious views or fanaticism – by its nature does not comport with reality. This is why people with overactive amygdalas handle reality poorly. Their fear response and inability to process conflicting and/or ambiguous data overwhelms their reason prompting the desire to put things into boxes that don’t fit in boxes so as to alleviate the stress caused by uncertainty and failure of observations to conform to expectations. This leads to a low resolution understanding of nature’s complexity.

    Also, “I didnt know you had a sense of humor” isn’t a counterargument.

  16. If a parent doesn’t see immediately, when giving their little one a sugary concoction that they’ll go frantic pdq; then everyone who keeps doing this to the disdain of all the nanny’s will have to be sterilized by other nannies (or is that ninnies?).

  17. Gene H:

    “Extremism by its nature offers silver bullet/one size fits all solutions and reality is not amenable to such solutions.”

    Reality isnt? Any living entity of a particular species will be acted upon in the same way by a particular external stimulus.

    The reason “extremism” doesnt work is that it wishes something were so and therefore disregards reality in order to conform reality to its wants and desires.

    There is nothing wrong with extremism per se as long as it comports with reality.

    The world isnt fuzzy, perception isnt fuzzy so it must be your thinking which is fuzzy.

  18. Bob Esq:

    “Participation in a national health care plan is not consent to be treated as “property of” the United States.”

    I didnt know you had a sense of humor.

  19. Also, picking one study to show a cause/effect relationship that lots of other studies haven’t shown seems like an ineffective way to argue that the relationship exists. Especially considering that the one study uses a data collection method, parental reporting, that has been clearly demonstrated to be flawed.

    One study set out to test the expectation of parents who believed that sugar had a bad effect on their sons. In the experiment half the mothers were led to believe their sons were drinking something sugary. The other half were told the drinks really contained an artificial sweetner, not sugar. When the mothers were then asked to observe and rate their children’s behaviour, those who thought their sons had been consuming sugar said they were more hyperactive than the mothers who knew they had drank a placebo. But there was another twist to the study. While the mothers were observing their children, the researchers were observing them. They noticed that the mothers who thought their sons had drunk too much sugar not only criticised them more, they also stayed closer to them and watched them more. So the supposed sugar had not changed the boys’ behaviour, but their mothers’.

Comments are closed.