The Soda Wars

Nothing like a little government overreaching to welcome me back to the world post-vacation! In a nutshell, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban of sugary beverages over 16 ounces from all of the city’s restaurants, movie theaters, etc:

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible.’ New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Now, you might say, well good! Who in their right mind needs 16 ounces of high fructose, corn-enriched, syrupy, fizzy, deliciousness? And to that, I say, none of your business!

Look, I’m not discounting the dangers of childhood (or adult) obesity, and I’m not discounting that, because of health care costs, obesity is and should be a public concern. And I’m not disputing that soda etc. isn’t a prime culprit of the problem. But a ban? Really Bloomberg? You think the answer is telling people what’s right for them? Such a dictatorial approach! Is that really the precedent we want?

Do we ban cigarettes? No. We just tax the crap out of them, and then limit the places people can smoke them. In other words, make it difficult, expensive, and socially unacceptable for people to buy 16 oz beverages, but don’t tell them they can’t. You can’t tell people what to do to themselves (just ask people with idiot tattoos), but with decisions that affect the public well-being, you have to find away to incentivize the best behavior (why there should be higher taxes on hummers than priuses).

Disney has a better plan, believe it or not. The mega-advertiser just announced that food promoted on its kid-focused channels must adhere to a new set of nutritional regulations. Now that’s an incentive I can get behind. We, collectively, have to make it harder to create, package, market, and consume shitty food that makes people sick. We, collectively, have to make it easier to find, afford, purchase and eat healthy food. Individual corporations can take on some of that burden, but the government has a fair share of responsibility too. Banning an excessively large bucket of coke doesn’t even begin to touch the root of the problem.

But, my government should not be telling me what to purchase at the movies. My government should not be subsidizing king corn until the first 6 ingredients in any packaged good start with “corn.” My government should be passing legislation that prevents public schools from serving tater tots and ketchup and calling that two vegetables.  My government should be incentivizing, responsible, local businesses to make decisions that facilitate, but don’t mandate, healthier behaviors.

Chicago’s three biggest food deserts (via Chicago Magazine)

Chicago’s poorest neighborhood are also the ones with the fewest grocery stores, and not coincidentally, they are the ones with the shittiest schools, the highest violence rates, and the shortest life expectancies. Telling people they can’t by a tub of Dr. Pepper is not the same as providing people with the education, access, and tools they  need to keep their families safe and healthy.

Related Post: Obesity linked to lower paychecks.

Related Post: Lucky me, I have grocery stores nearby, so I can make things like this.


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