The infamous mayor, known for instituting paternalistic food policies, like banning trans fats and Four Loko, limiting salt, regulating calories, is at it again. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing a plan to limit the size of sugary drinks that NYC establishments may sell. Restaurants, movie theaters, street carts, along with some corner stores and bodegas will no longer be allowed to sell sweetened drinks in servings larger than 16 fluid ounces. Drinks exempted from the proposal include diet drinks, fruit juice, and lattes that are more than 50-percent milk.
This is just the latest controversial action in a long string of controversial actions taken by the mayor to combat obesity.
“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 the Governor’s Room at City Hall.
“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.”
Setting aside what the “public wants,” this proposal is a massive waste of money, will not at all address obesity, and will simply contribute to the tsunami of regulatory burdens with which business owners in New York City must grapple.
While the causes of the perceived obesity crisis are too complex to delve into in a blog post, it is pretty obvious that this super-sized soda ban will do nothing. First of all, there’s nothing in this proposal to prevent customers from purchasing multiple bottles of 16 ounce drinks. Furthermore, sweetened drinks in bottles greater than 16 ounces will still be available in grocery and convenience stores.
So why is he doing this? Perhaps Mr. Bloomberg is really stretched for a way to spend the $15.5 million in stimulus money? As the Heritage Foundation reported last October, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provided $230 million for 25 communities’ obesity campaigns. And here I thought stimulus money was meant to help struggling communities and to decrease unemployment — turns out it was really meant to make commercial that portray American companies (aka employers) as selling carbonated fat-in-a-can.
Perhaps this is just an attempt to look like a do-something-mayor in the lead up to the City’s 2013 election. Or perhaps he really wants to reduce the rate of obesity. Whatever his reasons, this type of overreach demonstrates that he either has a lack of understanding of how public policy can affect public health, a disregard for individual choice, and/or zero knowledge or complete disregard for how economies function. Either way, it’s up to New Yorkers to let the Mayor know what they really want. I hope their answer is: the ability to make decisions about what they eat and drink for themselves.