In the most dramatic current example of airheaded nanny-state legislation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg just announced a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks, particularly soda. Like most regulatory over-reach, it’s hideously complicated, and bubbling with “unforeseen consequences.???
The New York Times lays out the Mayor’s agenda:
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces – about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle – would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
The ban would affect restaurants, movie theaters, ballparks, and snack carts, but not vending machines or newsstands. Restaurants must restrict themselves to offering Mayor Bloomberg’s fat, stupid constituents a cup of 16 ounces or less, but they’re still allowed to offer free refills. You can chug 64 ounces of soda if you want, provided your cup holds 16 ounces or less between refills.
And, of course, you can pay a little more to buy two 16-ounce drinks anywhere covered by the ban, instead of one cheaper, larger beverage. Bloomberg’s answer to this point is a classic of sneering elitism:
The mayor, who said he occasionally drank a diet soda “on a hot day,??? contested the idea that the plan would limit consumers’ choices, saying the option to buy more soda would always be available.
“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,??? Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.???
He also said he foresaw no adverse effect on local businesses, and he suggested that restaurants could simply charge more for smaller drinks if their sales were to drop.
So, you see, the commissars shape business. They do not prevent it! Businesses can always extract more from customers to finance mandates from the commissars!
Another measure of the Kafkaesque absurdity of Big Government is that Bloomberg previously tried to prevent the use of food stamps to buy soda, but was blocked by federal regulators. When the government is actually paying for your drinks, they can’t prevent you from drinking something they have declared unhealthy, so they’ll just make it more expensive for the people who buy their own beverages.
Hilariously, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski declared the ban was “a great idea??? and dared her co-panelists to challenge her on it??? while sipping a large Starbucks beverage that, depending on its precise composition, might be one of the items prohibited under Bloomberg’s proposal. She went on to describe large sugary drinks as “a big glass of poison,??? which is why the Food Police must step in and over-ride parental judgment over the nutrition of their children. Just wait until they start seizing State-disapproved beverages from school kids during lunch break, and explaining how the government cares more for their health than Mommy does.
Of course, the Big Drink Ban will impose all sorts of compliance costs on businesses in New York, including modification of menus to remove verboten items, repackaging bottled beverages to comply with the ban, modifying ad campaigns to avoid pushing items the commissars have ruled unfit for consumption by New Yorkers, and stocking up on government-approved diet drinks. Maybe some of them will decide to self-impose aspects of the ban on a national level, because it’s too expensive to have separate packaging and menus for one city. A number of previous regulations have been stealthily imposed on Americans in that manner.
The sphere of government power surrounding the War On Obesity is inflating faster than Morgan Spurlock during the filming of Super Size Me. It’s a fairly open-ended mandate for regulation, based on dubious arguments and long stretches.
Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research claims “banning large size sodas has no basis in science, limits freedom, and leads us away from facing the real problem of obesity in a serious, fact-based manner.??? He concedes that drinking too much soda is a bad idea, but maintains “the Mayor’s Nanny State approach will do little to curb the problem and will do plenty to alienate the very people we need to work with – not against- the people who consumer too many calories from a variety of sources.”
Since Nurse Bloomberg’s latest prescription won’t do much to “cure??? the “obesity epidemic,??? expect more bans to come, perhaps including efforts to keep pump pudding-heads from guzzling forbidden quantities of soda in their homes, or monitoring restaurants to prevent the offer of refills, free or otherwise.
And let’s face it – one of the biggest reasons for obesity is not diet, but the sedentary lifestyle all too common in the Information Age. If the ObamaCare individual mandate is left intact by the Supreme Court, the government can finally get started on fixing that problem, by requiring citizens to exercise. There are so many things you can be forced to buy, or avoid, for your own good.