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Here we go again: Nanny Bloomberg bans large sodas

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Bans on smoking in restaurants. Then outdoors, in parks. Bans on artificial trans fat in restaurant food. A demand to post health inspection grades in big letters on restaurant windows. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City and billionaire, has made a name for himself as America's leading local government Nanny. Now Bloomberg has announced his latest obsession: banning the sales of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theatres and street carts.

A few things are striking. For a start, this is really breaking new ground. Smoking has been well-demonized, and bans have been largely accepted. But with his latest salvo, Bloomberg enters new territory: our food and drink intake, in the name of cubring obesity. With smoking, he was targeting a minority, and there were (albeit bogus) claims of harming non-smokers via second-hand smoke. But in banning soda (what they call pop in the Midwest, or Coke in the South) as well as sugary fruit drinks and sweetened coffee, Bloomberg is going after a majority who drink such beverages, and there is no claim that others' health is being affected.

What's also remarkable is the petty nature of it all. The plan is to ban sugary drinks over 16 ounces in size. People will be able to purchase more than 16 ounces, just not in one container. The idea is that people, like mindless idiots, purchase a single large container and then feel obliged to finish it - and thus chug down massive calories. So Nanny B will make you think twice. Like other "nudgers", Bloomberg argues that he isn't denying choice: "I don't think you can make the case that we're taking things away." But his ban is in fact even more patronizing for the implication that people cannot control themselves (unlike politicians like Bloomberg, who says he only drinks diet soda "on a hot day").

It's great to see many people say this government going too far, that it takes away people's freedom to choose (for instance, see the reactions in the Reason vox-pop video below). But some who are opposed are not using helpful arguments. "It's time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association. "These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front." No, a concerted effort to stop bans like Bloomberg's starts with a recognition that officialdom's entire anti-obesity campaign needs to be challenged.

They have no business telling us that we're overweight, telling us what we can and cannot eat and drink, what size the portions must be. That 's crossing a line, stamping on our personal autonomy.

This is not politicians' traditional role; we elect them to serve us, not to lecture us. Clearly, in the midst of a stagnating New York City economy, Bloomberg feels he doesn't have anything better to do.

3 Responses to “Here we go again: Nanny Bloomberg bans large sodas” Leave a reply ›

  • I guess I must be stupid since I don't get the point of another law. This whole panoply of laws to "reform" our habits reminds me of the prohibition movement and those who ran it. Apparently they don't like what "certain" people" eat or drink, so they will ban that product. I suppose part of it is tied up with the twisted relationship many Americans have with food.

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