At a public hearing on July 24 over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial proposal to ban big-gulp sodas and over-sized sugary drinks, public health experts compared soda producers and marketers to big tobacco, reported the New York Daily News.
“The industry is spending unbelievable amounts of money to fight this in New York City. They’re using many of the same tactics that the tobacco industry used,” said Dr. Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Brownell also called oversize sodas a “public health menace.”
“Soda in large amounts is metabolically toxic,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, reported Time.
But opponents attacked Bloomberg's paternal overreach, claiming limiting the size of sodas would not change obesity rates.
“I’m not overweight because of Big Gulp sodas,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “I’m overweight because I eat too much pasta, pastrami sandwiches, bagels and cream cheese and lox, red velvet cake, cheesecake.”
The hearing was the only one scheduled before a planned vote by the city’s Board of Health on September 13. If approved, the ban on sodas and sugary beverages exceeding 16 ounces would go into effect six months later.
Last week wasn't the first time soda has been compared to tobacco. In February, The New York Times pointed out that the soda industry and its allies are making the same political moves as the old tobacco pushers: "marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or at worst benign, and lobbying to prevent change."
Many health studies not only attribute obesity to soda, but also link it to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and various psychosocial problems. Even a diet soda a day is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
In a Yahoo! article in January, Men's Health editors David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding referenced a recent study that revealed soda drinkers store more "harmful hidden fats, including liver fat and skeletal fat" than people who drink milk containing the same number of calories or water. While drinking diet sodas may cut the calories, "artificial sweeteners and food dyes have been linked to brain cell damage and hyperactivity, and research has shown that people who drink diet soda have a higher risk of developing diabetes," they wrote.
They also pointed out that "some popular soda brands, including Mountain Dew, use brominated vegetable oil—a toxic flame retardant—to keep the artificial flavoring from separating from the rest of the liquid. This hazardous ingredient—sometimes listed as BVO on soda and sports drinks—can cause bromide poisoning symptoms like skin lesions and memory loss, as well as nerve disorders."
Check out Health Remedies' poster on soda's harmful effects: