One might say Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Soda Ban really “fizzed out”. As of yesterday afternoon, a New York State judge blocked the ban, saying neither the mayor nor the Board of Health have the authority to ban a product “under the guise of controlling a chronic disease”.
The new law would have gone into effect today, March 12th.
Here are some highlights of the ban that almost was:
- Small businesses would have been forbidden from selling sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces. (This included soda, coffee, tea, fruit juice-drinks, and sports drinks)
- Alcoholic beverages, diet drinks and natural fruit juices were not affected.
- Pitchers of soda, juices and mixers would have been banned from being served at bars or restaurants.
- Pizzerias would have been unable to deliver 2 liter bottles of soda, regardless of the size of the order being placed.
- Health inspectors would have been required to carry 17 oz. measuring cups while performing inspections to ensure restaurants were following the law.
The number of restrictions was so ridiculous that Dunkin’ Donuts began distributing an information sheet to customers and Starbucks had flatly refused to comply. In fact, the ban was so unpopular that only 36% of New Yorkers approved--a number which has likely fallen as more restrictions were announced in recent weeks.
Despite such low approval for the ban, supporters had plenty to say. Here are the top 5 dumbest things people have said in favor of the new legislation:
1- “No one NEEDS a 44 oz. Slurpee, so they shouldn’t exist.”
There are lots of things people don’t need but still have. You do not NEED the computer, tablet or smartphone you are reading this on, so should it not exist? You do not NEED to watch television or surf the Internet, so should those activities not be allowed either? (Ironically, 7-Eleven would not have been affected by the ban so the Big Gulp™ would have been safe anyway.)
2- “It’s just sugary drinks. Don’t get so worked up about it.”
Anyone who feels this way has entirely missed the point of the ban. The first part of this statement is correct: On the surface, this current legislation is about beverages that contain sugar. This does not take the bigger picture into account: Mayor Bloomberg should not be able to decide which beverages are available for purchase in NYC.
This sets the precedent for Mayor Bloomberg to continue making health decisions for the city. Next week carbs will need to be regulated because we metabolize them like sugar, and laws will be passed to limit the size of pasta dishes restaurants can serve, or how much bread New Yorkers can purchase. The following month the Mayor will want to tackle skin cancer, so he’ll mandate that everyone wear full body UV clothing when the sun is out. Where does it end?
3- “I don’t put sugar in my coffee, so it doesn’t affect me.”
To be fair, this is not so much supportive as it is indifferent. If this is how our generation approaches politics, then how about this:
Straight people can already get married, so I don’t care about marriage equality. I’m not gay, so it doesn’t affect me. (To be clear, this is not equating drinking soda with the decades-long struggle for marriage equality. It is highlighting the absolute selfishness of people who think only they matter.)
If every individual were only concerned with issues that directly affected them, no political progress would ever be made. Losing the freedom to make a choice, even one as small as what beverage to drink, should concern everyone.
4- “You can still get a sugary beverage by purchasing more than 1. Sure it might be annoying, but you can still work around it.”
Imagine this scenario:
We all know that watching too much television is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. Therefore, government has decided that every new television set will come installed with a switch that turns it off after 30 minutes of viewing each day.
Not many people would say this: Well I can just buy more than one TV set. Sure, it might be annoying, but I can work around it.
Sure, a television costs more than a single cup of coffee, but the cost is not the important part. The point is that the government should not be able to put laws into place because SOME people do not take proper care of themselves.
If a person exercises 4 times a week and eats well, why should they be forbidden from having a coffee with sugar in the morning? The mayor should not be able to tell citizens what to have for breakfast because of the poor choices others have made for their own health.
5- “I get the whole civil liberties thing, but...”
A sentence that begins like this should just stop right there, because anything that follows is invalid. Civil liberties are not just a “thing”, they are something our country was founded upon. Civil liberties are what separate our country from places where freedoms are a foreign concept (North Korea, anyone?).
In this case, people should be provided with as much information as possible, so they can make informed decisions about their health rather than have the government do it for them. (If only New York City had some sort of public school system in which the mayor could implement health education classes.)
Naturally, Bloomberg has already promised to fight yesterday’s ruling, claiming his duty as mayor requires him to pioneer new health regulations to protect the city’s citizens. Unfortunately, there are many other more pressing issues facing the city right now that the mayor has not addressed. Perhaps he should focus on the record number of homeless people living in NYC or the embarrassingly high illiteracy rate of the city’s high school graduates, instead of what New Yorkers put in their cups of coffee.