ICYMI: Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week proposed a ban on the sale of large sizes of some sugary drinks in New York City’s restaurants, movie theaters, street carts, ballparks — pretty much everywhere but grocery and convenience stores.
It’s a silly ban, for a lot of reasons. One is that, like most nanny-state regulations, it’s arbitrary: The cutoff is 16 oz., which all but assures a growth industry for anyone who wants to manufacture 15.-oz. plastic bottles. Another is that it’s inconsistent: A 20-oz. bottle of Coca-Cola, with 65 grams of sugar, would be outlawed but a 21-oz. chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s, with 111 grams of sugar, would still be legal because it’s considered “dairy-based.” A third reason is that it’s bound to be ineffective: Why would someone who wants his sugar not just buy two 12-oz. cans of a sugary soft drink rather than that 20-oz. bottle (and end up drinking more)? And, in restaurants, these drinks must be served in cups that are 16 oz. or less — but refills will still be allowed.
But maybe the silliest thing of all about the ban is the rationale Bloomberg gave for it. From the New York Times’ story about the mayor’s proposal:
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.” (emphasis added)
Ahem. If people wanted something done about obesity, and specifically about obesity linked to the consumption of sugary drinks, wouldn’t more people stop consuming sugary drinks?
In fact, given that the Times’ story reports that the city has found one-third of residents drink at least one sugary drink a day, isn’t it impossible to conclude that a ban on these drinks is what “the public” wants?
If the other two-thirds of the public (which, for the record, includes yours truly) doesn’t want to pay, directly or indirectly, for the health problems caused by obesity, the answer is to place the burden for paying for those problems more squarely on those people suffering them because of their own behavior.
– By Kyle Wingfield