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June 2019 Question of the Month: Should Cities Help Shape What People Eat?

New research points to benefits of local food regulations.

Like them or hate them, soda taxes are proving effective at curbing the intake of sugary drinks. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health cites data showing that after the city of Berkeley, California, implemented a penny-per-ounce soda tax in 2014, consumption of sweetened drinks, including soda and energy drinks, plummeted by 21% in lower-income neighborhoods. And 3 years later, city-polled residents reported drinking 52% fewer of these beverages than they did before the tax passed. On the flipside, water consumption rose by an average of 29% over the 3-year period.

In another example of nutrition policy, New York City enacted a much-publicized ban on trans fats in restaurants in 2006. A separate investigation in American Journal of Public Health has now shown that the policy had definitively positive health benefits by causing trans-fatty-acid levels in the blood of New York City residents to fall by slightly more than half in the years after the ban and before a nationwide cutoff came into effect in 2018. Notably, people who ate out more often saw more impressive results, with blood lipid levels dropping by about 62%. These examples could provide fodder for cities, states and even other countries to pass similar legislation encouraging improvements in eating and drinking habits to curb rising rates in diet-related diseases and their associated economic drain.

Do you favor government regulations that aim to improve the diets and health of Americans? Do you consider such policies signs of a nanny state and think we should focus on self-regulation of dietary habits?

Are there more effective ways than levying taxes and banning certain ingredients to improve what people eat and drink? Or should local
jurisdictions enact even more policies to encourage healthier eating habits among residents? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

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