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Yes you read that right citizens in New York, citizens across the nation; for now at least New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban the sale of sugary sodas over 16oz. has come grinding to a screeching halt. Two weeks ago a New York supreme judge struck down the city ordinance calling it arbitrary and capricious; detailed in his ruling were facts citing it was unfair as it applied only to certain venues and ignored beverages with higher calorie and sugar content. One example, that latte we’re all so fond of. Here was just the latest volley from a city official known as the first to demand calorie counts in restaurants and to ban the use of trans-fat in the same foods. And unlike bans on trans-fat which can be easily substituted by natural versions or a knowledge, education based campaign letting people know how many calories are in their favorite fast food; there is little indication such a ban will do anything other than anger people who believe their freedom of choice is being taken away. In fact the day before the ban was slated to take effect saw people in certain venues enjoying a large drink precisely because it was the last day to do so. While we’ve come to expect nothing less from the nicknamed nanny mayor, readily banning smoking in public places and more than willing to sacrifice personal freedom for projected public good, too often other legal entities are more than willing to go along with him; the New York board of health signed off on this despite it’s exclusion of beverages sold via convenience stores and supermarkets. They signed off on it knowing full well the health conscious mayor was avoiding the larger fight with both state legislatures and the FDA to regulate what is sold in those places along with addressing the hidden sugars in every day food staples likely consumed by more people than soda, lattes, alcoholic mixed drinks, fruit smoothies and milkshakes combined.

However there are more problems than just what the ban covers in terms of food/drink items or where it is or isn’t put into effect; Mayor Bloomberg’s chief reason for establishing the ban was to protect his citizens, his children from the harmful effects of obesity, going on to say obesity kills. Which in an indirect way it does; the fallacy comes in presenting sugary drinks, primarily soda, as the sole cause of obesity something that is false. Obesity may kill; soda itself does not. Often missed is the sugar content, the presence of vilified high fructose corn syrup in almost all from concentrate fruit juices routinely given to kids and thought of as healthy. Obesity itself  has many factors including the food you eat not just the drinks you consume, activity level, family history and, commonly dismissed as a cop, out genetics, all play a role in your overall health, whether you become obese or not, whether you develop health issues from that obesity. Contrary to popular perception you can be fat, overweight, classified by medical definition as obese, and have none of the so called lifestyle diseases. He resides in a state, presides over an urban city, who, like many others, lack grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods so people can purchase healthy foods, those same places possibly lacking sidewalks and possessing crime and violence rates discouraging outdoor physical activity solely for the sake of exercise; still his first two acts confronting the subject are fast food calorie counts and soda restrictions? In contrast, across the nation a push was made to add more money to the food stamp program so individuals, families could afford fresh fruits and vegetables vs. cheaper canned varieties containing copious amounts of salt and preservatives. What he tried to do is eliminate the ability to by soda for food stamp recipients, pointing to the fact our city official needs to educate himself before he tries to run out and just ban everything, pointing to a mindset of stop gap, Band Aid fixes without any permanence, without any hope of ever solving the core problems.  Further pushing this ban gives the public misleading information causing them to subconsciously assume fruit and milk based offerings are better for them even if they contain higher calories or sugar content than your average big gulp or gust buster. Continuing a majority of the public are aware of the existence of high fructose corn syrup in soda and other things that aren’t good for you the same way they are at least partially aware of the potential for high salt, fat and calorie counts in popular fast food; what they are unaware of, not expecting is the presence of high fructose corn syrup in a common staple like a loaf of bread. How many other staples in American pantries and refrigerators unsuspectingly house said ingredient remains a mystery along with why they put it there in the first place, if food makers plan to put it into basics like cheese, milk. These are the things citizens need to be aware of not forced to abide by a designated cup size.    

Unfortunately for the hyper health concerned willing to aggressively wage war on obesity in similar ways, as a result of his attempt backlash has included the state of Mississippi passing a law making sure no local municipality can pass any such regulation, bad for denizens of Mississippi experts say considering they have one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation. Yet again to be discussed are the core reasons why; Mississippi like surrounding southern states has a long cultural history of eating fried foods daily, consuming at least one fired food at every meal. Traditions centered around Sunday dinner, soul and comfort foods means setting up situations where high fat, salt and sugar foods are ingested on a regular basis coinciding with family fellowship, turning everything from weekly get-togethers to family reunions into another thanksgiving or Christmas, at least as far as portions and calorie counts. Consistent phenomenon occurring right along with less celebrated American holiday’s involving food Easter may be celebrated with a dinner after attending church services; Memorial Day and the fourth of July are often excuses to not only enjoy the outdoors, bask in warm weather activities but to barbecue hamburgers, hotdogs, eat baked beans many times slathered in sweetened barbecue sauces. Behaviors that are confined to the home, the family not what is consumed in a restaurant; which points to where chance must take place. Community action groups bringing in chefs, showing people in this region how to cook with less calories, substitutions for fried favorites that lose none of the taste and texture but are much better for you especially when eaten on a regular basis. For those who do choose to go to a restaurant on these occasions or are frequent visitors to restaurants here is where menu tutorials and education would come in to show people how to choose healthier options, how to understand calorie counts on menu items vs. the number of calories you should consume daily, partnering with local fast food and restaurant chains to provide samplings of healthier offerings, all movements that belong in the volunteer sector not the city or state legislature. Mississippi has it right; regardless of what their obesity rate is or isn’t,  governments, particularly city governments, shouldn’t be spending their time dictating what size drink someone can purchase, yanking the toys out of kids meals when there is zero evidence it has any positive effect on people’s consumption habits. In fact studies are beginning to uncover displaying calorie counts caused some people to notice them but when checking receipts they actually bought more calories not less.

This judge like Chris Christie before him got it right not only in upholding common sense but by openly calling it arbitrary and capricious, openly supporting the idea that America is still a free country in which you need a compelling reason to make something illegal not vice versa needing a reason to make something legal, openly supporting people’s right to make choices, even supposedly bad ones, in regards to something as personal as health. Now it is unclear whether the New York supreme court judge understands all facets of obesity, diet related illness, social factors that contribute to it, has contemplated better, farther reaching solutions to addressing obesity and health in general, nor is it known whether he would have had to legally uphold the proposed ban had it included all venues or if it would have been thus struck down because these other entities were not under the jurisdiction of the city. But surely as a studier, upholder of the law he certainly comprehends the end run a city official is trying to make around the larger state and federal justice system put in charge of regulating food ingredients, content sold in convenient stores, thus striking down the idea that’s going to work. Like Mississippi shortly after him he appears to share the sentiment that it is not city government’s job to enforce nanny state-ism designed to protect people from themselves. It really goes to the gullibility of the American people that we think enacting ordinances like this changes anything on a significant level; ironically the only ones who believe it will are the ones who look at a fat person in the street and immediately assume they are fat because they have no self-control, are ignorant, slovenly, something to avoid being near at all costs. Those same people are the ones frantically working out, counting calories, eating exclusively organic, health food store products so they never end up like that. The only ones who think handing people 2 cups if they desire a drink size over 16oz. will make them think about anything other than how dare you and how dumb are the same ones already electing not to drink soda, drinking soda rarely or in cautious amounts because they have fallen for the PSA it’s bad for you. Not surprising really from the nation banning plastic bags in certain cities in order to protect the environment, decrease litter in waterways that shouldn’t have been allowed to get there to begin with, has gotten many sections of the population to buy into canvas grocery bags, reusable coffee containers that look just like the ones our morning lattes come in, steel straws and sandwich containers to replace plastic small, cloth baggies for chips and other such snacks while our countries recycling program remains a system of sort it and put it on the curb rather than a slightly higher bill to have trash sorted by paid workers removing not just everything recyclable but sending paints, batteries, computer parts and mercury laced light bulbs to their designated safe disposal sites. Not taken into account, by the industry suddenly booming with consumer demand based on PSA propaganda, is impact to the environment from producing all that steel. 

Of course Michael Bloomberg seems to show no signs of having learned his lesson on how far he can push citizens across America or in his city; after framing it as, and waging a David and Goliath fight against what people drink and how much, in late 2012 the New York Post obtained police documents suggesting he was attempting to bring together a community coalition to ban smoking in all residences, providing incentives to landlords who disallowed smoking in apartments, dwellings city wide. Bloomberg spokespeople deny any such program is or was ever in the works but you have to wonder, considering his track record, if he tried and simply found it would never get off the ground similar to the Texas mayor who wanted to fine persons for excessively baggy pants until he was presented with a cost analysis learning the extent of manpower and dollars it would take to try, deciding instead to launch a billboard campaign advertising raise your pants raise your image. News anchors reporting on New York’s potential proposal commented as to the ridiculously high rent people pay in Ney York city to be there, to live there, obviously showing disbelief a mayor would think to ban something otherwise legal done in your own home. Now there is something to be said about smoking within your home if you have small children, if those children have conditions like asthma; people applauded a young man who fought to ban smoking in cars containing small children. But it stops there; people who have no children in their home, do not regularly have children in their home should not be subjected to restrictions regardless of what is now being put forth for public consumption on so called third hand smoke, lingering chemicals and so forth left on smokers’ clothing, present in elevators and supposedly even effecting joined apartments like duplexes and fourplexes. To say nothing of if the information on third hand smoke is correct, the more permanent solution would be to modernize building codes, still trapped in the 1940’s thus limiting the number of electrical outlets, allowing them to be placed under windows where in case of a leak it would lead to an major electrical repair, modernization that would require thicker walls incorporating technologies that reduce or eliminate the transference of these harmful substances, an added bonus being you can no longer hear your neighbors doing everything from fighting to flushing their toilet, an age old complaint of apartment dwellers. Additionally it’s not as if landlords need more power; they, like home owners associations, already force people living in areas, living in their housing to do silly things like put up Christmas lights, disallow pets, tenant owned washers/dryers and yes insist on non- smokers further making the plan, whether it was actually Bloomberg’s or not, largely redundant.          

Returning to the controversial issue of restaurant dink cup size mayor Bloomberg is promising to appeal yet has quite quickly moved on to his next nanny state crusade. Currently on his agenda to save citizens from themselves, ear buds and headphone volume; while no bans are in the works, he is planning to launch a series of public service announcements, subway billboards reminding people of the potential for hearing loss with ear buds and all headphone volumes if they are too loud. True there is an increase in hearing specialists having to tell 20 something’s their higher pitched hearing is already gone, where it used to be 40-50 year olds frequenting their offices, likely due to long term exposure to dangerous levels of headphone volume, once again missing is the larger picture and a highly more effective solutions. Yes many teens and 20 something’s live today with headphones in their ears continuously; however, that is a situation where duration not just volume comes into play. Along those lines is also why this generation spends so much time with something blaring in their ears or do they; headphones are often worn on your person, i.e. in your ears, as a place to put them since i-pods are so small they readily fit into pockets and even headphone sets that come with carriers are a pain. Walking around with headphones in your ears is similarly a quick way to remain undisturbed in crowded places or when walking to try and clear your head. Of those who do listen to headphones routinely, daily or several times throughout the day, for hours at a time many do so while exercising; others do so in urban areas to drown out the large amount of loud, ambient noise present in such places, adding to the chances they will suffer eventual hearing loss because not only do they want to be distracted from unpleasant noise, they have to crank their music selection up that much louder to hear vs. a quiet area with none or less of such noise. Once more Michael Bloomberg has bypassed an opportunity to pass regulations aimed at reducing all that racket allowing people to turn down their headphones considerably, simultaneously cutting the chances of later life hearing lost from lifetime exposure to repeated construction, car horns, big trucks exc., still enjoying music at a desirable volume. Some might reduce headphone usage drastically owning to no longer needing to block out constant noise. Michael Bloomberg has long become a symbol though arguably not the one he hoped, a picture, model of a government official willing to take on the tough fights, tackle the challenges facing everyone in the 21st century. Instead Michael Bloomberg has become a perfect example of government gone awry, a symbol of the nanny state-ism people will always fight against, the nanny state-ism people overwhelmingly prove by their actions they want nothing to do with.