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 ” In addition, the sugar dosed kids had trouble concentrating and became more socially withdrawn than kids who didn’t imbibe.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. Bron,

    Thanks for the recommendation of “Charlotte’s Web.” I’ve made to page twenty, but the plot is thick with twists and turns, so it might take me awhile to finish.

    BTW, something that would speed up my reading would be a dictionary with a good index. Do you know of any? Let me know if you do.


    I’m not sure I’m ready for the Potter stuff. Witches, warlocks, spells, etc. It might shake my belief in reality — not that the elves in The Hobbit didn’t, but hey that was long ago and far away, wasn’t it?

  2. Bron,

    No. I haven’t gotten to children’s books yet either. Just adult fiction, a few philosophy and science titles and a couple of literary theory titles. I’m not even done with fiction yet. I still have science, history, more philosophy, law and other areas to add to that list. But just so you know, I was never much for Nancy Drew or Tom Swift. I was more of a Hardy Boys fan. What I’m really doing it for isn’t for any kind of bragging rights by volume, but as a practical tool. I’ve read so much I occasionally buy a duplicate of something. Also, the site is useful to track a “to read” list. The point is that I’ve read hundreds (if not thousands) of books. What I know about most subjects is more substantive than a Wiki entry. If you recall, you have seen me use disclaimers when it’s a subject I have superficial mastery of the subject such as the USCMJ. I know what I know.

    Also, having been a lab rat for most of my elementary and secondary education days, I have a pretty good grasp of the parameters of my intelligence. I’m not the world’s smartest man but I’m not exactly a chimp either. I spent a large part of my life dumbing things down because it makes some uncomfortable. Now I just don’t care about their discomfort. People can take me as I am or not. One of the benefits of age.


    If you got through “The Hobbit”, you’ll sail through the Harry Potter books. Which reminds me, I need to add Rowling to the list. 😀 I hope you like them. I was a little dubious at first, but I found her to be a surprisingly good writer considering most juvenile fiction is horrid (except for Robert Heinlein). I do suggest, however, avoiding anything by Stephanie Meyer (“Twilight”).

  3. gbk:

    I certainly am glad you are reading and it makes me deliriously happy I am inspiring you, once you finish with Harry Potter you ought to try Charlotte’s Web. My children really liked the story and it [Charlotte’s Web] will prepare you for reading Animal Farm. Since a pig figures prominently in the story [Charlotte’s Web].

    Just take it slow at first so you dont get confused and before you know it you will be reading at an 8th grade level and proudly proclaiming I read 100 books today.

  4. Bron,

    I just finished “The Hobbit,” better late than never — the book is so long it took me six months to finish.

    I’m building up my vocabulary so that I can read the Harry Potter stuff next.

  5. gbk:

    I dont use improvisational definitions. Never have, never will.

    I bet you have read over a thousand books, eh? I am guessing you included Tom Swift and Nancy Drew Mysteries.

  6. Gene H:

    900 books? Wow, you really must be smart.

    Are you including The Cat in the Hat and Are You My Mother?

  7. Bron,

    Really. I’m only about half way through entering the books I’ve read into Good Books. I’m not even to the technical stuff yet. I’m at 900 and counting. Wiki is a tool like any encyclopaedia. Don’t mistake that a reference to a convenient summary is a lack of actual knowledge and understanding.

    Also I think gbk has nailed you. “Water doesnt just cease to exist” – but it does become too polluted to use and weather patterns changing are impacting growing cycles – “there is much oil left to be found,” – that’s simply wishful thinking – “technology will improve food production.” – unless it can find a way to make food without water there is an upper limit on what technology can do once demand driven by population pressure outstrips production.

    If you don’t think complexity exists? You are more out of touch with reality than I thought. Next time you’re looking at whatever colored sky you have in the world you inhabit? Look at the topology of a cloud. That’s a road map for complexity. Complexity exists. That you’d deny it isn’t reductionist. It’s ridiculous.

  8. Bron,

    “. . . complexity which can lead to chaos.”

    And then entropy steps in, right?

    Oh, wait, we were discussing how complexity leads to chaos. But chaos is complex, wouldn’t you agree? And complexity does not always lead to chaos — go look in the mirror; well never mind.

    Sincerely your friend,


  9. Bron,

    I’m pretty sure you’re in denial simply because you don’t like Rousseau. He was heavily influential in Jefferson’s writing the Declaration and well read, influencing many of the Founders if not most.

  10. Bron,

    “I dont believe in complexity, if something looks complex then something is wrong . . .”

    This statement says so much.

  11. Bron,

    Yeah, you busted me!

    I’m just a stickler for really wanting to know what people mean when they refer to: “that,” “those,” “them,” “they,” and of course the much maligned “it.”

    Throw some of your improvisational definitions up there, why stop now?

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