As we count down the days remaining to enjoy foie gras in California, we should also count our blessings that we do not live in New York City, which has just proposed a ban of large-size sodas. (Or maybe we shouldn't; maybe it is good idea.) The far-reaching ban would prohibit the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters, delis and ballparks, The New York Times reports. The draconian measure is an attempt by the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fight rising obesity.
Under the proposed ban, pretty much the entire menu of popular sugary drinks, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas, would be limited to a maximum serving size of 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a regular soda bottle. The plan, which would take effect as early as next March, would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes or alcoholic beverages. It would not extend to drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores or from vending machines.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, 'Oh, this is terrible,' ” Bloomberg told the Times. “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.”
Of course, the New York City Beverage Association, an arm of the soda industry's national trade group, thinks the whole idea of singling out sodas is totally crazy. “The New York City health department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top,” industry spokesman Stefan Friedman told the Times.
At fast-food chains, restaurants would be required to hand out cup sizes of 16 ounces or less, even if a customer chooses a diet drink. But free refills and additional drink purchases would be allowed, making the “ban” seem very silly indeed.
However, the measure is likely to pass because it just needs the approval of the Board of Health — all of the members of which were appointed by Bloomberg.
The mayor has made previous, unsuccessful efforts to attack soda consumption. He supported a state tax on sodas, but the measure died. He also tried to restrict the use of food stamps to buy sodas, but federal regulators balked.
With the new proposal, the mayor's office says they believe they have the legal authority to restrict soda sales, based on the city's jurisdiction over local eating establishments.
This proposal raises a host of unhappy questions: Are they going to have soda beat cops? Will citizens begin hoarding 32-ounce cups? Is the Big Gulp going to become the Little Sip?
And, most important, why should the government get to decide what, and how much, nonalcoholic beverages consenting adults choose to drink? Soda may be bad for you, but it isn't a can of crack. Or is it?
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