The mayor of New York took the next big step in his aggressive campaign against the obesity epidemic this week when he unveiled plans to institute a broad ban on the sale of large, sugary drinks including sodas within the five boroughs. The ban would affect restaurants, movie theaters and streetcars.
The new ban would have a significant, categorical impact on popular drinks found all over the Big Apple. Every fructose-laden beverage imaginable, from sweet tea to Coca-Cola would be fall under the purview of this initiative.
According to the New York Times, the measure explicitly doesn’t apply to diet sodas, fruit juices or any drink with a dairy base like chocolate milk. The restrictions would also not extend to any alcoholic cocktails (phew...).
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,” Bloomberg said during an interview Wednesday. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
Not surprisingly, the announcement from Bloomberg’s office was met with mixed reviews. Many have applauded the billionaire mayor for his first-in-the-nation effort against the rising obesity epidemic. Others see this move as an unacceptable abridgment of personal liberty. After all, don’t we as Americans have the right to decide if we want to drink Coke or Diet Coke, sweetened tea or unsweetened, Slurpees or Smartwater?
But on the other had, don’t our elected officials also have an obligation to protect their constituents from unreasonable dangers – especially those dangers associated with billions in public expenditure like health care costs? If the government can mandate seat belts, prescriptions and pesticide bans, why not sugary drink bans?
Here’s what some people are saying from around the web:
“If government can implement rules like that, what can’t government do? Can it make you eat fruits and vegetables every day? Before you say ‘Of course not,’ why not? Soda is bad for you. Fruits and vegetables are good for you. In the nanny state, a law mandating that you eat well makes sense. And what about ObamaCare? If government can force people to buy medical insurance for the good of society, why can’t it force them eat broccoli or apples for the same reason? The U.S. Supreme Court may answer that question, any day now.”
-Conservative Blogger Bernard Goldberg
“If those people just buy more of the smaller-sized sodas, consumers will be just as obese, they’ll spend more money, and they’ll pump more profit into the movie theaters’ coffers. In short, I can’t figure out whether the benefits of Bloomberg’s Big Soda Ban exceed its costs.”
-Forbes Contributor Peter Cohan
“Yes, it’s an infringement on personal freedom. And it seems a bit drastic. A tax on sugary drinks seems to make more sense from the standpoint of allowing people to buy whatever they want, but also acknowledging that there are potential health risks (and future health care costs) linked to prolonged consumption of these sugary drinks. At the very least, I think Bloomberg and the NYC Public Health Department deserves credit for not just standing idly by, but actually trying to do something to address the obesity epidemic in this country. “
-Northwestern University Medical Student Tony Millard
“Maybe it's not such a bad thing if a city official, who was freely ELECTED by his own constituents, tries his best to curb [sugary drinks'] influence. It doesn't make this country a member of the Warsaw Pact if that happens.”
-Gawker.com Blogger Drew Margary