That’s right roughly 6 months from now New York City will be the first city in the United States of America to outlaw the sale of any sugary beverage over 16oz., but only in movie theaters, restaurants, fast food places. Last month the New York City board of health gave the green light to mayor Bloomberg’s controversial proposal to remove sodas and other sugary drinks above the stated size from the aforementioned venues; the hope being it gets New Yorker’s to think about the amount of sugar, calories they put in their bodies from said sources, thus curbing the ever growing obesity epidemic. While many citizens think this is a good start to making their city, the country much more health conscience still more think it silly, ridiculous, and obtrusive, made all the more so by the limits of the ban; you can still buy whatever size soda, sugared drink you want in the supermarket, at the convenience store, gas station, ironically the home of big gulps, gust busters sporting the very outlandish sizes regulation hoped to make people avoid. Fruit and milk based beverages remain exempt from the ban despite carrying identical or greater calorie counts, even sugar amounts had anyone bothered to look. And once more you have leaders upholding a nanny state everyone has long grown weary of, that has gone from doing things for the public good to eroding another favorite personal responsibility, not to mention the ability to choose.
It is one thing for fringe political persons to present radical ideas; it is one thing for career politicians to propose something extreme in the name of keeping their city safe, in the name of public benefit. It was one thing to remove sugary drinks from schools, unhealthy items from vending machines on school grounds; this has always had a completely different feel to it in a country that prides itself on freedom, choice being paramount among those freedoms. It was one thing for mayor Bloomberg to suggest it, quite another for an unrelated city/state body to go along with the madness as well; supporting this proposal does little for the public health, infringes on people’s right to live their life according to what works for them and only truly serves to anger individuals with that famous, or perhaps it should be infamous, New York temper. As outlined in my earlier piece Nanny Bloomberg Strikes Again (https://indiemusicnews.com/blog/2012/nanny-bloomberg-strikes-again/),banning sugary drinks, sold in some places does nothing about buffet style restaurants who often offer free refills with the purchase of a drink, does nothing to educate politicians about how people actually consume their large, sugary drinks, probably amounting to less calorie and sugar intake than originally thought, how much is actually ingested of those eye popping sizes, how many of the offending sized drinks frequent users consume in a day, week, month, does nothing about hidden manmade sugars in products not known for their sugar content, the alarming number of stapes like bread containing high fructose corn syrup for example, does nothing about what people can buy or not in the convenience store, supermarket like the new sizes of Pepsi products sold in my home state’s supermarket introducing the 24oz. can and discourages the 8oz. cans of both Pepsi and Coke products sold there as well, discouraging Pepsi products offering old school formulas with plain sugar not high fructose corn syrup. Dispelling the positive comments presented about this on things like Mother Jones op ed. pieces comparing drink sizes, prices in the U.S. vs. around the world, the UK approach to weight vs. the US, how it will be handled with something besides diet pills and bariatric surgery is misleading because as mentioned in reporting Mayor Bloomberg was trying to target drink sizes tied to one eating experience, but drink sellers in all the places now effected understand that may not be how people drink their drink as is the norm overseas. People will take their big gulp and drink on it for hours in a car, driving a cab or bus for a living, have a giant sized whatever at a football, baseball game that lasts 2-4 hours or carry the remainder of their drink from X event and drink it at home, at their next stop of their vacation plans; many ounces of such drinks are wasted as kids spill their kiddie drink, don’t finish it. Adults often toss theirs when they become watered down or lose that characteristic fizz.
Fact banning sugary drinks, the sale of large quantities of same, as some probable law student cheekily pointed out on a comment board when they disagreed with calling it a ban or naming someone’s comment piece ridiculous for comparing Bloomberg’s action to prohibition, is more likely to cause people to buy 2-3 cups, maybe even 4 or 5 displaying the attitude who the hell are you, the government, to tell me what I put in my own mouth. It has the potential to cause people to rush out and buy a big gulp or a large size before than ban goes into place, who never wanted one prior to it making headlines, because it is now suddenly something taboo, not allowed. Apparently the esteemed mayor has never attended a psych 101 class. It is definitely more likely to cause people to sneak their own snacks, drinks into movie theaters to avoid having to pay extra to buy those cups, denting the local economy when offenders are banned from theaters. If they must individuals, families will avoid stadiums, boycott beverage stations at stadiums, find clever ways to smuggle in their own items, and when caught will go on a crusade to repeal the ban/restriction. Lost on our well-meaning mayor is ingenuity in the American business; they, before anyone else, will find a way to give their consuming public what it wants, whether that be paying an extra dollar for your 16oz. drink to obtain free refills up to so many or unlimited refills, whether that’s paying half price for additional cups, 50 cents per added cup up to a certain number or just fudging the sizes using a 20 oz. cup for example and not filling it all the way, handing it to the customer and telling regulatory bodies customers serve themselves drinks; once you give them the cup what they do with it is on them. Nor does it matter if the regulation is not technically a ban, if there are simple ways to circumvent the restriction; it simply needs to look and act like a ban to the people. No matter what you call it, it’s still putting an unnecessary boundary between people and choice; semantics aren’t going to lessen mass reaction, aren’t going to influence people’s decisions on something so trivial they don’t feel the government should be involved in. Also lost on the well-meaning mayor a concept even the president, the left wing liberals have started to repeat until we’re all tired of it, personal responsibility; the republicans use it to talk about financial matters home buying, social security, Medicare, retirement, disaster relief, the president used it to talk to school children about being active participants in their education. Now you have an independent mayor not only flying in the face of that inherent responsibility but excluding personal choice supposedly operating on the premise people now have to deliberately elect to make an unhealthy choice; however, in the opinion of hordes of doctors, nutritionists, researchers, you do that every time you pick up a sugary drink no matter the size, every time you eat a cheeseburger no matter how infrequently. Based on that logic you might as well try to outlaw fast food period, and good luck with that.
Further the logical reason there is a city/state board of health in all stated areas across the country, the reason they have any say in an ordinance like this is because they are there to provide a type of checks and balances to keep government officials from needlessly usurping choices from citizens, related to public, overall health. Another function they should be providing that they blatantly botched here is looking at the proposals, suggestions, regulations and ensuring they really do, will enhance public health, there is no such proof or reasonable speculation that will be the case when mandating limited cup size only on some drinks. Truthfully it can and is deceptive to the American public reinforcing the idea fruit and milk based products are healthier even when they are no better sometimes worse than their soda counterparts. But then there’s also how he did it; the mayor chose to enact it on a city level rather than dealing with the state legislature, other regulatory bodies because as mayor he has a measure of control over the board of health, hints why convenience store offerings are exempt, because they are controlled by the state not the city. So not only is this official prone to fringe ideas, he’s shamelessly using the power of his position to dictate the rights of others. And he’s not even fighting the right battle; returning to the price differences of US and overseas fast food items, part of the McDonald’s, fast food made me fat excuse, court case isn’t just simpleton masses and hidden calorie counts. It’s that you have whole neighborhoods in urban areas, inner cities that don’t have a super Wal-Mart, Gerbes, Hy-Vee, have real grocery store at all, certainly not one that sells fresh vegetables. There are volunteer campaigns now trying to correct that by offering fresh vegetables to citizens in these blighted areas; what they do have there is 4-5 fast food places in twice as many blocks. What they do have there is single parents, teenage kids working fast food to support their families, babysitting younger siblings when not at work, meaning when you’re too exhausted to cook after a 12 hour day it’s much easier to grab things off the dollar menu at one of these places than it is to cook healthy food, it’s easier for big brother to use his employee discount to bring home dinner than it is to cook healthy food. Even access to a full service grocery store doesn’t solve the whole of this problem when you can get a 2 liter of soda for 99 cents and for that same price you could get 2 pears, when you can get giant bags of chips for 1.00 or 1.50 vs. one piece of another type of fruit. Poorer people are forced to buy can fruits and vegetables vs. frozen or fresh to feed their families; forget ethnic foods, cultural traditions, poorer people end up eating beans, rice and other pound packing foods to keep their stomachs full.
Not to mention the real reason we’re listening, subjected to mandates on ordinary behavior is the magnified fear surrounding healthcare costs; everyone from insurance companies to so called entitlement programs are scared to death they are going to have to pay for the healthcare of citizens, never once making the connection between lack of preventive care, primary care physician access and the exorbitant cost racked up by nicknamed lifestyle diseases. They completely forget the drain on the system by the uninsured, who avoid care clinics, hospitals until they land in the ER, the most expensive part of the hospital, no matter what their problem made all the worse by waiting. Yet all the blame goes on people with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity automatically assuming they got it not from genetics, family history or just plain body malfunction, bad luck, but by bad health choices. Additionally more and more weight and so called lifestyle related illnesses like diabetes are being linked to genetics not just habits, so are their opposites. Scientists are finding so called skinny genes, no not the things you wear but the kind that make up your DNA; you either have them or you don’t. Similarly outliers, exceptions to the general rules of healthy living keep being broadcast on the news. The man who has eaten thousands of big macs over the course of his 50 odd years of life with exactly zero health consequences being one; news outlets just reported on a new research study asking people to eat fast food daily for several weeks, record how much weight they gained, then to get the last of the monetary incentive they had to again lose the weight. The purpose, to discover why some people who are overweight, obese develop health issues and others do not. Continuing, looking at things like the Dr. Oz Show, simple things added to your diet meant to do everything from help you sleep better, give you more energy, combat obesity are increasingly items only available at health food stores and routinely turns what even the most health conscious people thought they knew about becoming, staying healthy, the things we have repeatedly been told, on their ears. Sadly we bemoan more than just the size of a drink with this ruling, we bemoan more than the death of a simple freedom, the death of common sense that was already on life support as it was; we bemoan losing the real battle before it began, we bemoan the reality that no lasting, worthwhile change will take place for long years to come, making healthy foods less expensive for example, removing harmful manmade additives from food, particularly odd ones that don’t belong in that particular food in the first place. We bemoan leaders, city officials, watchdogs for consumer health being completely unable to recognize real solutions.