New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban could actually make people buy and drink more soda, according to a new study.
When undergraduate students at the University of California at San Diego were presented with menus offering varying sizes of sodas and “bundles” of smaller drinks, they chose significantly more soda from the bundled menu, researchers at the university found.
“Restricting larger-sized drinks may have the unintended consequence of increasing soda consumption rather than decreasing it,” according to the study, published in PLOS ONE science journal.
Students were offered three menus. One had only 16 ounce sodas, in compliance with Bloomberg’s soda ban. Another offered several sizes, including larger sodas, and a third offered “bundles” of smaller sodas equaling larger drinks, such as retailers might offer to get around a super size ban.
On average, the students selected about 3 more ounces from the bundled menu than the traditional menu, and 12 more ounces than they chose from the one-size menu.
Revenue for businesses offering “bundles” to skirt the soda ban was also higher, the study found.
“These results show that businesses should earn significantly more revenue when bundles are offered than when small drink sizes alone are offered,” researchers wrote. “This means restaurants have a strong incentive to convert their original-sized drinks into bundles so they do not lose a major source of revenue.”
The study did not test how much the students would actually drink, and the researchers noted that people might share more when buying from a bundled menu. But they suggested the results still show people are more than willing to get around a soda ban.
“Even with the restriction, New York State Senator Daniel Squadron has said that “those who want to drink more will still be able to go ahead and have two.” Our study shows that when larger drink sizes are offered as bundles, people are very likely to go ahead and do just that,” the study concluded.