Could Legal Bans On Soda Sizes Actually Backfire?

LOS ANGELES , April 17, 2013 () – Will a soda ban work?

Will New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to limit soda and other sugary beverage cup sizes to 16 ounces at restaurants and other establishments influence people to consume lower amounts?

Honestly, I’m on the fence. Some researchers, however, are adamant that not only will such bans not work, but will actually backfire.

According to a study conducted by psychologists from the University of California at San Diego, such bans would prompt beverage makers to try tactics such as selling sodas in smaller packages and bundling them as a single unit, which would actually encourage consumers to buy more soda than if the ban hadn’t been in effect.

Now would beverage makers try such tactics to counter the ban? Sure, according to the study, pointing out that these bundles would mean more revenue, which would likely offset the costs of having to produce more cups, lids and straws to hold these extra drinks.

Now I can’t predict the future, but if such a soda ban like New York City’s is ever allowed to go into effect, you have to assume the following:

Beverage makers will do something. They’re not going to just stand idly by and watch profits fade away.

Consumers used to drinking large quantities of soda won’t just automatically start drinking healthier alternatives such as bottled water. They’ll either try to find cheaper sugary drinks or just pay more.

Any ban’s success will be limited because of free refills at restaurants and other establishments such as movie theaters. If it’s free, people will drink more to get their fill.

How will this all play out?

First let’s see if a ban is ever actually allowed to take effect.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for IndustryIntel. He doesn’t know if a soda ban will work, but he does know that consumers and beverage makers won’t just sit on their butts if forced to deal with smaller sizes. He can be reached at

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