Frugal Friday: Should the Government Get Its Hands Off My Big Gulp?

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soda ban

Happy Friday everyone! It’s been another crazy week, but thankfully everyone is all back to health here in the Frugal Rules home. Mrs. Frugal Rules caught my nasty cold last week and was down for the count most of the week and is thankfully back on the mend. I realize that my post today may be opening a can of worms, but hey, I like to get us thinking every once in a while. 😉 Last week I wrote about the craziness behind the Cronut and we also learned this week about the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe (I know, I think I need a triple bypass after just typing that) and today I’ll be writing about the soda ban in New York City. As an aside, is it only us crazy Americans that have a trademark on terribly unhealthy dietary habits? Anyway, I was reading this week about how the Bloomberg administration will be seeking to reinstate the ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces to be sold in places like restaurants and movie theaters as a way to help address the public health epidemic of obesity. The ban was nearly instituted last year by Mayor Bloomberg but was nixed at the last minute through a court decision. It was interesting to see that this ban would not impact businesses free from health inspection like convenience stores. I do not live in NYC, but I do know that this issue was one that created quite the uproar in the news and is an issue that nearly everyone has an opinion on.

For that can of worms, here it goes…While I understand and applaud the intent of the ban, I have serious misgivings about it. My first problem with the ban on large sodas is does the government really have the right to tell us what we can or can’t consume? Not that I am one to go buy a 64 ounce Big Gulp to have with my dinner, but what right does the government have to tell me that I can’t have it if I want it? I don’t want to live in a country that tells me what I can or can’t consume. That aside, my biggest concern is the precedent allowing a ban like this would have. I know that I do not live in NYC and it would not impact me now, but how soon would it be until something like this is passed in other cities or even goes to a national scale? Allowing a ban like this would only create a slippery slope, in my opinion, and could open up other consumer goods to be banned which makes me very uncomfortable.

Now that half of you are ready to throw some virtual stones at me, let me take a step back. I fully recognize that we have a significant health issue in the States. The numbers in regards to obesity and other diseases are staggering and I completely understand that. I also understand that this is putting yet another stressor on our completely messed up health care system. There is no doubt that there are changes which need to be made in both areas in order to improve the situation for our country. This is also not to mention the financial impact of choosing to regularly consume such a large amount of soda. The short term aspect is an obvious one, soda can be expensive and when you drink a lot of it that means that you’re spending money needlessly on something that brings little to no nutritional value and can be directed to other areas of your grocery spending. The long term aspect is virtually as obvious from a financial standpoint, the more sugary soda you drink, over time, the worse your health may become and thus cost you more as you get older to provide for your health care needs. All that said, I do not want the government dictating what I can or cannot consume as I believe once you give an inch then the government will take a mile.

Now that I have opened the can of words, I want to know your thoughts and please keep them respectful. I am totally fine with disagreement, just keep it clean. I especially want to know your thoughts on this matter if you live in NYC and see it much more closer than we do just seeing it on the news.

It has been another great week in the blogosphere. I came across some well put together blog posts this week. I do want to thank everyone for answering my call for guest posts last week! I have a couple of other openings for another week I’ll be gone in July, so if you would like to guest post on Frugal Rules, simply contact me and I’ll get you added.

Blog Post of the Week

How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt on Debt RoundUp

My favorite post this week, by far, was that of my blogging buddy Grayson. There were many reasons why I enjoyed it, probably because I can relate to it so much due to my own bout with credit card debt. Grayson touched on the salient point that all too many miss by saying that it comes down to figuring out the difference between wants and needs. I know it was something that I struggled with in my crazy credit card spending days and once I realized that and put a plan in place I was able to put my head down and tackle the debt. I also loved this post because Grayson laid out how he paid off his debt in very important, yet simple steps that build on the previous one. If you’re currently in debt, I encourage you to read Grayson’s article to get proof that paying off a mountain of debt IS possible.

Other Blog Posts That Ruled

Our 3 Best Money Choices – #2 on Money Counselor

The Rule of 72 and Compound Interest on Common Cents Wealth

Reader Writes: Short Term Savings on Money Smart Guides

Should You Take on Debt to Get a Tax Break? on Celebrating Financial Freedom

How to Overcome Laziness and Save Money in 5 Easy Steps on Canadian Budget Binder

Is The Stock Market Rigged? on Out of Your Rut

Odd Search Terms

What to buy my Dad if he likes beer…Let me think about this – BEER!

Can you use napkins to wipe your butt…I would be concerned about chafing issues.

He drove her to literally pull her hair out…He sounds like a winner!

How to become high…I could tell you, but this is a family blog!

Wife spent $300 on shoes…thankfully something Mrs. Frugal Rules does not do!

Can you work while taking 12 years of college…It sounds to me like your focus should be on college & not working!

Why do I scratch my head when I think…You have to power up your brain somehow!

Blindfolded and bound…I don’t even want to know!


What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay on the government hand on your soda? Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?


Photo courtesy of: Rex Sorgatz

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • I agree 100% with your thoughts. I understand the intent behind banning the large sized sodas, but at the end of the day, it should be my decision as to whether or not I drink it. Where does the line get drawn? I was having this exact conversation with my girlfriend, who doesn’t see that big of a deal, but once I brought up the fact that today it’s soda, tomorrow it might be tater tots, we don’t know, she realized why I was concerned. It’s just opening a door that shouldn’t be opened in the first place.

    • John says:

      I agree Jon. It does open a door that does not need to be opened. This is also not to mention the fact that it really does not address the issue at its root.

  • Have you seen the half-gallon “jug” at KFC??? We got it to share for a dinner with my wife’s family but holy crap I bet people actually drink the whole thing themselves sometimes! But I agree 100% with you – there should be no ban on the size of a beverage being sold. Plus am I the only one who realizes you can just buy four 16oz bottles instead of a 64oz bottle?? Seems like an ineffective legislation. Aren’t there bigger issues to be tackled?

    • John says:

      Lol, a Jug?! I have heard it all. 😉 I agree, it really does nothing to keep people from having it, they just have to buy more. And YES we do have much bigger issues that should be tackled instead.

  • I agree 100% too, John. As much as it pains me to see people ruining their health with all of the crap food in America, it has to be their decision, not mine or anyone else’s, as to what they eat. By and large I eat fairly well, but once in a while I want a Big Mac, Supersized fries and a large Coke, and that’s none of Bloomberg’s or anyone else’s biz! This kind of legislation will only lead to more and more invasive government and less and less freedoms.

    • John says:

      I agree Laurie. They’re into too much of our business (this past week or so is case in point) that they should stay out of this.

  • Troy says:

    Reminds me of the Prohibition era, but for something not as bad (Soda). I’m heading out to the family farm this weekend – I haven’t been horseback riding in a long, long time.

  • Matt Becker says:

    I’m with you on this one. The only complicating factor is that the government subsidizes such a big part of our healthcare bills, and this kind of thing has in impact on driving up those costs. But I don’t believe the fix is to regulate our behaviors. I believe the fix lies in how we deal with paying/not paying for health insurance. Trying to micromanage problems that come up because you tried to micromanage other problems is a slippery slope.

  • I also hate when the government tries to control what we do. The government is put in place to serve the people… It sounds a bit like a dictatorship to me.

  • Mrs. 1500 says:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Why should they make a law respecting an establishment of drink size? While some people do need to be saved from themselves, where does it end? If you are going to drink that much soda, why does the glass size prevent you from doing so? I have worked at two separate jobs with two separate men who each drank more than a case of diet soda each day. Astonishingly unhealthy, but they did it anyway. In America, we are free. That freedom gives us the ability to make spectacularly bad decisions.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Mrs. 1500, we do need to be saved from ourselves at times but that does not mean they should dictate how big our drink is like you say. I worked with a guy at my last job who would bring in a 12 pack of Cherry Coke and have it gone in less than 2 days and did this several times a week. The financial aspect notwithstanding, that is a CRAPLOAD of sugar!

  • This is a horrible idea and I really hope that it doesn’t pass. Not only is it bad because not all businesses would be on level playing grounds, but also the next step is then what we can eat. I don’t have an issue if they want to create incentives for choosing healthier options but if I want that Big Gulp I should damn well be able to get a Big Gulp. The government should only be there to provide national security, at least in my opinion. Other than that if you’re not hurting anyone other than yourself then you should be free to do anything.

    • John says:

      Great points JC! The business issue is a bad one because it means that restaurants would no longer be able to serve pitchers of soda. So, if I want to get a pitcher of root beer for my kids party I can’t, but buy individual drinks. That, in turn, is more expensive, thus I would be less likely to spend in other areas.

  • I understand where you’re coming from, it’s a big “big brother” ish. But I think the policy will benefit children the most. Kids don’t need that much sugar and they can’t make informed decisions about their health. I can’t tell you how many times I would go to the corner store on the weekend with my allowance at 11 and buy HUGE sugary drinks.

    • John says:

      That’s just it Daisy – why can’t schools just not serve soda or sugary juices to the kids, but serve other and healthier options? Combine that with education without dictating what can and can’t be consumed.

  • I certainly don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t drink. However, I strongly feel that if you are morbidly obese and on Medicaid or disability because of your obesity, I think all your purchases should be limited . I also feel you shouldn’t be allowed to buy cigarettes or alcohol if you accept welfare. I know there would be no way to monitor it and if there was, people would probably have someone else buy for them.

    If you want to pay your own way, then , yes, drink all the Big Gulps you want.

    • John says:

      Nor do I Kim. Though you bring up a great point about those on government assistance. I would tend to agree with you on that, but would be concerned in regards to how that could be monitored.

  • Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    I too feel that it should be left to the individual to decide what/how much soda they want to consume. We all know that too much sugar consumption is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your health. But unlike smoking in public where the 2nd hand smoke is threatning to a non-smoker, if you drink a soda you’re not affecting me or my health directly. Yes we could argue the point of increased health costs especially in countries that have Universal health care but I will digress. Good post!

    • John says:

      I completely agree K.K. There may not be the direct result like smoking but there can be indirect issues. That said, I think this should be an individual issue.

  • E.M. says:

    I also agree John – we should be able to make our own choices. I understand there is a ridiculous level of consumption of sugary drinks, but at the end of the day it’s every individual’s choice to consume those things! Fast food is another one – so are they going to ban that down the road, too? It would be the start of a snowball…I’m sure people would find a way around it anyway. Like DC said, they could just buy multiples of smaller sizes then. If they did go through with this I would hope they make the price of water a little less expensive in NYC!

    • John says:

      I agree E.M. , it does just become a snowball and you then have to question how you stop it. We have too much government in our lives, literally, and this is not needed.

  • If the U.S. had a taxpayer-financed healthcare system like the rest of the developed world, I could see an argument for taxing and banning food & drink known to increase demands on the healthcare system. Absent that, I think government’s role is education only. If citizens then choose the path of willful ignorance, that’s their business.

    And thanks for the mention John! Glad you and Ms. Frugal Rules are back to a healthful normal.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Kurt and can see how that could potentially change it a bit. However, God only knows when we will ever get anything like that here in the States.

  • anna says:

    I tend to like the ban only because I feel America’s become so gluttonous – if ever, it could help change one’s perspective on what portion sizes are. In Japan, the portions are *tiny*, but I think I only consider it tiny when in fact it’s normal because American sizes are so huge. BUT, I do understand the premise of the slippery slope with the government gaining this type of control. What I really wish would get banned is cigarettes, since it not only affects the person smoking but those around them.

    • John says:

      I would respectfully disagree Anna, though I completely appreciate your thoughts. We have become gluttonous and it’s crazy some of the things we consume, but if we allow this where does it stop? Today it’s soda tomorrow it’s something else, which is why I think we need to focus on things like education and getting soda out of schools. I also have no fondness for cigarettes as it can impact anyone around the smoker.

      • anna says:

        No worries, I tend to be in the minority when this comes up (though your reply was way nicer than “If you like The Man so much, then why don’t you just marry it?” Productive… ;)). Good point about getting the education out there vs. setting laws about it, though.

        • John says:

          Lol, that would’ve been quite the comeback huh?! 😉 I would never say something like that to you Anna. If I ask readers to be reasonable & me not, then I’d be a hypocrite. 🙂

  • Andrew says:

    I live in NYC and oddly I don’t have really strong feelings either way. Although I have bought a big gulp and split it with my wife cause it’s cheaper than buying 2 =) I don’t really care if they ban it. The mayor also wants to ban styrofoam cups and also mandate cigarettes be hidden. It is getting to the point where he is trying to control everything which is troublesome. But, there are a lot of people who need to be saved from themselves and yes taxpayers do bear the brunt of the healthcare costs.

    • John says:

      I agree that many do need to be saved from themselves and as I responded to another commenter I worked with a guy who needed that. I have also heard that Bloomberg is wanting to control a lot of things. The one that just made me shake my head was not allowing baby formula in hospitals ( I am not completely certain what the exact restriction is/was) but a lot of parents do choose to use formula and some babies need it. It just makes no sense to me.

      • Andrew says:

        I think baby formula is allowed, but it will require an additional step. It will be locked away and the nurse will sign out for it (like medication). He is trying to encourage breast feeding which some studies say is supposedly better. I think it can be encouraged without taking this step though.

        • John says:

          I think you’re right Andrew. We breast fed with all of ours, but we had several friends who needed to use formula for health reasons and would hate to be told they shouldn’t use it.

  • While I am naively surprised at times at the amount of soda some people consume, I do agree that it’s not the government’s job to say whether that is right or wrong. We have an obesity epidemic in the States but banning soda isn’t going to make it magically disappear. Soda is merely one of the components to our growing obesity problems – it is not the root cause. I also think there are other things equally, if not more dangerous, that the government hasn’t banned – like cigarettes. It is a slippery slope as you mentioned and for goodness sakes – we all know how well prohibition worked out. 🙂 Thanks again for inviting me to guest post this week. I really appreciate it! Have a wonderful Father’s Day. 🙂

  • Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says:

    Thanks for the mention, John! I totally agree with you on the size of pop being restricted. I wouldn’t want a big gulp because I try to limit myself to one can a day, but why can’t others drink more if they want to? Just doesn’t seem right to limit that.

    • John says:

      Not a problem Jake. I don’t drink them either and limit myself to 1-2 cans, at most, per week. While I don’t drink them, I do not think it’s right to limit others.

  • PK says:

    “does the government really have the right to tell us what we can or can’t consume? ” – State government, certainly. Federal government, yes – though a slow expansion of Interstate Commerce. Note that even though the government felt it necessary to amend for prohibition, there was no movement to amend for scheduling drugs. Weird, eh?

    • John says:

      I think I am following your thoughts PK…if so, I am more so addressing things you would eat/drink. They really do not place limits on booze, though they do have warnings like if you’re pregnant – don’t drink, etc. Maybe a warning on soda could be an option?? I’d be open to something like that.

  • Debt Blag says:

    Lots of comments already.

    I’ll just say this: society at large — i.e. taxpayers — has to pay some cost when people consume too much sugar, either directly from the treatment of uninsured people who get diabetes, hyperglycemia, and the heart disease and other issues that can come from the weight gain; or indirectly when insured people get treated and can’t contribute to GDP because they’re in a hospital…or dying…

    As for the function of government, maybe “government” shouldn’t tell society that we can’t have bigger sugar drinks, but maybe society should tell itself that it can’t, either through referenda or by electing leaders who’d do it on their behalf.

    • John says:

      I agree, that is a good point and one that I’ll cede. The problem, however, is if you allow this then where does it stop? That is what I see as the major issue, not to mention the fact that there are much larger issues we could focus on.

      Instead of not allowing it, why can’t we educate more and give better/healthier options? That said, I think there is a balance to be had as opposed to swinging to one extreme or the other.

  • This NYC dweller says, Yes. BACK OFF!

    This issue needs to be rectified in schools not in banning big gulps. If we start teaching children, from a young age, how to better take care of their bodies then people should know well enough to avoid the 64 oz beverages. The decision should be to take things away, it should be to educate people to understand the consequences of what you put into your body.

    I may be an alarmist, but I do see this as a very slippery slope. A few months ago a local NYC news channel even did a segment about Bloomberg wanting to start an “ear bud awareness” campaign to get people to stop blasting their music. Feel free to plaster the subways with ads about how we’re all going to be deaf, but Bloomberg best end the crusade there.

    • John says:

      Thanks for your input Erin, that’s what I was looking for.

      I agree that education is where it needs to begin. Teaching kids about the impact of what they put in their body and not making soda & sugary juices so easily to get in school. I know it won’t cure it right away, but it’s where we need to start.

      I agree that it is a slippery slope and if we open the door to this, then where does it stop? Ear bud awareness…I have heard it all. 😉 Having ads on the subway is one thing, but I bet he tries something beyond that…if he can.

  • Agreed, they are way to much in our business. If people want to end up with health issues it’s their own problem.

  • No way on earth the government should have any say in that!

  • Thomas says:

    People have to make their own decisions. You cant go controlling any and everything you don’t like. People in general will find a way to get what they want. If not a big gulp they will just by a 2liter soda. Then what next banning six packs of Coke? Did he read your post on the Cronuts? He would probably say they need a ban on that as well. I read in one of the comments they are banning baby formula in hospitals, what is this country coming too. You can’t save people from themself. I personally think we have more issues to be concerned about. But what do I know.

    • John says:

      I agree Thomas, a lot of it is too far. I am sure the intent is good, but the carrying out of it is something else. I don’t know that they’re banning baby formula, but putting it under lock and key and making it quite difficult for new Moms to use it in the hospital. I could be somewhat wrong on that, but that is the gist I get.

  • Don’t worry – you are not alone! There is an obesity epidemic in the UK as well. And questions being raised about the price of alcohol.

    But I agree there are questions about whether the state has the right to tell you what to eat or drink. In the US maybe not because you pay for your health care so if you end up needing that triple by-pass then your health insurance will become very expensive. So it’s up to you. But in health-care centric Europe maybe the state has a point.

    After all, obesity has beem identified as a major cost to the health service which is paid for largely out of taxpayer funds. So perhaps people at least have a responsibility to eat healthily and exercise….

    • John says:

      That’s a great point John and I do think who is paying for the health care may very well have an impact on the call. I agree that we do have a responsibility to eat healthier, though I think education would help towards that end as well as not having so many options for junk food.

  • This is AMMMMMERRRRICCCCAAAAAA darnit! If I want a huge soda and a big mac who is it to say I can’t have it. This is the land of freedoms and everyday I see them being encroached on in various ways. Maybe instead of taking away big sodas you should stop having pepsi subsidize our schools by placing soda machines every 15 ft in the halls, thus hooking people at a young age (this is how my public school was, your mileage may vary) Or maybe there should be more recess so kids can burn off those calories and energy, instead of zero recess and more sitting. (no wonder there is more “ADD”…there’s a ton of pent up energy because they can’t move!) Or maybe, just maybe…people should take responsibility for their own actions. If you eat crap all day your gonna get fat. That is no ones fault except your owns. Maybe I should have included this under your latest “rant” posts comments lol. Stay away from my big gulps!

    • John says:

      Ha ha! Great point though, I say take the sodas out of the schools and educate about healthier habits while including more activity. That would be too easy though I fear. Thanks for the mini rant! 🙂

  • Great reads! Hope you enjoy your weekend!

  • Hey John!
    I couldn’t agree more! The government needs to get off my beverage choice cloud because I’m having none of their big brother “we know what’s good for you better than you do” mentality. It’s a slippery slope and not one I’d be comfortable allowing my elected officials to be part of.
    I guess my other question is don’t these guys have anything better to do? Like address crime rates or education or something?

  • Keep your hands off my big gulp! I don’t even buy the big gulp, but if I wanted to it’s none of anyone’s business. Ditto for the double down at KFC or the big mac at burger king. I think we need to give people a little credit for being decently intelligent. Yes I know the big gulp is bad for me, but if I want to drink it it’s my waistline that will pay.

  • Untemplater says:

    I’m surprised California hasn’t jumped on this, especially San Francisco. I think it’s a bit weird if it becomes a federal law, but I don’t have a problem with it. Soda is so unhealthy, especially in large quantities.

  • pauline says:

    I generally disagree with the government getting in people’s lives, what they could say is they aren’t going to treat people for obesity and other related diseases for free on medicaid, or for alcohol, drugs and tobacco related problems either, and put a premium on the price of healthcare for those. Limiting the size of a drink, when most places have free refills anyway, won’t help much.

    • John says:

      I feel the same way Pauline. I think the limits would do little as anyone who wants it bad enough will do what they can to get around it.

  • John, sorry for being late on this post, but I am just catching up from my weekend off. Thank you very much for having my post as your favorite for the week. That is quite the honor and I am glad that you liked it.

    Regarding the ban, I think it is ridiculous. Yes, we as an american culture tend to over consume, but if you are going to do it, then that should be your issue. Once the government gets involved, then I am sure it will start to include other food items in the ban. Once you ban it, then people will find ways to get it and there will be a black market for large sodas. While that sounds crazy, I am sure it will happen.

    • John says:

      Not a problem Grayson, I certainly understand.

      I totally agree with your thoughts here. While I think over drinking is just a bit crazy, it would create a slippery slope and people will find a way around it if they want it enough.

  • You know in Asian countries like Japan and Korea, they usually have 8 oz cans as the norm as opposed to 12 oz cans. Personally, I sometimes want to drink soda but not the whole thing and I leave some left over. I think if we give consumers more “small” size choices, it would be better than having a ban. I am amazed sometimes with big drink sizes such as the “Big Gulp”. So my idea would be “smaller sizes”, better education… not the gov pushing legislation down our throats.

    • John says:

      You bring up some great points Boris. I would tend to agree, especially on the education standpoint. The smaller serving choices is a great idea as well, if it were up to me I would get rid of soda altogether in schools.

  • Hey John, Thanks for including a link to my article!

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