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Thirsty Consumers Could Find Ways to Skirt Big Soda Bans

— The logic behind soda bans seems simple enough. Soda plays a large role in the obesity epidemic and Americans are drinking too much of it.

So if governments ban super-sized sodas, people will drink less and public health will improve, right?

A bill that would tax soda is making its way through the legislature.

Aired 4/12/13 on KPBS News.

Soda bans like the one recently floated in New York City could easily backfire, according to a new study out of UC San Diego. In an experiment on limited soda sizes, participants actually bought more soda when jumbo cups were taken off the menu.

Not necessarily, as UC San Diego psychology researcher Brent Wilson found out. Soda bans like the one floated in New York City could easily backfire, according to a new study he led. In an experiment on limited soda sizes, Wilson observed participants actually buying more soda when jumbo cups were taken off the menu.

How? People simply bought a bundle of two smaller drinks, which together added up to quite a lot of soda.

"They actually chose to buy more soda than when the regular menus — with the regular small, medium and large sizes — were offered," Wilson said. "So that suggests that if businesses are offering bundles, people might actually buy more soda than they were prior to any ban going into place at all."

Wilson says this research will help public health officials better understand unintended consequences that could result from these kinds of bans.

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