Oh Bloomberg, you are the 21st century answer to Helen of Troy. The politician that launched a thousand regulations!
The rest of the world chuckled at the New York City’s mayor’s proposed ban on sodas over 16 oz., which is still winding its way through the courts. At least it was only New York – they do crazy stuff there! – the rest of us assured ourselves. Actually not quite – New Yorkers are trendsetters, yes, but also canaries in the coal mine.
I got a little nervous when the head of public health in Ottawa, the capital of Canada and my hometown, publicly mulled such a ban might one day be required up here.
Well baby steps be damned, looks like soda laws are off to conquer the world.
That seems to be the takeaway from the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion, taking place right now in Helsinki, Finland. It’s run by the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ public health arm. Representatives from governments across the world are attending to learn about the latest public health emergency.
No, it’s not an ebola outbreak. And it’s got nothing to do with tackling malaria, TB and smallpox – the things the WHO was established in 1948 to eradicate. The crisis they’re looking to mobilize all governments in opposition to is the fight against Big Soda, Big Food and Big Alcohol (their words, not mine).
Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, gave the opening address at the conference on Monday, the first cannon fire of this new war.
She said noncommunicable diseases are the new challenge to many countries â?? diseases furthered by Big Soda, etc. Weâ??re getting diabetes and heart problems because of our eating habits. Okay, fine, but isnâ??t that a personal choice issue? Not a U.N. problem?
â??The globalization of unhealthy lifestyles is by no means just a technical issue for public health. It is a political issue,â?ť she said. The conference also has an eye on â??related critical issues for health such as education, environment, employment, agriculture, transportation, housing, trade, finance, and foreign and development policy.â?ť
In other words, every department of every government should be mobilized in this war. Say hello to a massive push for the punitive regulation of multiple industries.
Makes Agenda 21 look minor league.
Will it work? Sure. In the creative world of big government, swing a big enough stick and you can make the public do anything you want.
It worked for the war on Big Tobacco – which Chan acknowledges as an inspiration for the war on Big Everything.
Smoking has decreased considerably over the years. The difference is cigarettes aren’t something humans need to live – food and drink are. Excessively regulating sustenance options – no matter how fatty or sugary some are – will likely have economic consequences, like increased prices for low-income earners already struggling to feed their families.
This wouldn’t have been possible if an otherwise respectable politician hadn’t set the mood by seriously suggesting residents of and tourists to the most famous city in the world weren’t capable of making their own choices.
So, dear New Yorkers, next time one of your politicians comes up with a zany big government idea, please make them keep it to themselves.
Anthony Furey is a syndicated columnist in Canada. www.fureyonpolitics.com;Twitter: @anthonyfurey