I just stumbled across this video editorial in the New York Times about Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugary sodas bigger than 16 ounces. It brought to mind the heated debate that followed Jessica’s post about the “diabetes ice cream social,” which encouraged diabetics around the world to celebrate their disease — or at least stick it to anyone who says that a malfunctioning pancreas need limit one’s intake of refined carbohydrates — by indulging in a favorite scoop.
Correct me if I’m mistaken, but it seems that we at A Sweet Life have not yet engaged in a discussion specifically on Bloomberg’s plan. The basic idea is that it’d be forbidden to sell sugary sodas in sizes over 16 ounces. But within that simple idea hide a host of exemptions. Juice wouldn’t count. Neither would coffee (since you add the sugar yourself). You could get as many refills as you’d like, or simply buy two 16-ounce cups to satisfy your 32-ounce craving. Also, only establishments regulated by the city would be affected, so even if you couldn’t buy your super-sized soda at McDonald’s, you could go across the street to buy it at Dunkin’ Donuts. In short, anyone who thinks the ban would actually prohibit you from ingesting sugar has not read the details.
In the video editorial, filmmaker Casey Neistat shows a clip from an interview with Bloomberg in which he states that the purpose of the ban is simply to “force people to understand” the amount of sugar they’re consuming. And therein lies what people object most vigorously to: the idea of the government “forcing” us to do anything.
I tend to have libertarian leanings, and in general prefer to have the government leave me to make my own decisions. But I have to say, this is a case in which I disagree. When Neistat shows sodas next to an equivalent number of sugar cubes, it’s horrifying. When I look around me in Philadelphia, I’m struck by just how obese many of us are. My parents recently took a trip to North Carolina and reported that one of the restaurants they ate at had to order an entire new set of chairs because the ones they had no longer could accommodate their patrons’ bottoms — in fact, my endocrinologist’s office here in Philadelphia has several double-width seats. Obesity is a national problem — and, as Karmel once pointed out, the more taxpayer-subsidized our healthcare system becomes, the more my bottom becomes your business. (Okay, she didn’t put it quite like that — but the point is that if I’m paying for your obesity-related health problem, then I have a right to care about the crap you’re putting in your mouth.)
Now, granted, I have a strong Bloomberg bias (any politician who’s so apolitical that he recoils at the idea of kissing a baby earns a soft spot in my heart). But considering the fact that the so-called “ban” wouldn’t really prevent anyone from drinking what they choose — considering that the biggest downside of the rule is to make you actually *think* for a second before sucking down a Big Gulp — I’m surprised at the amount of controversy it’s provoked. Given the impending healthcare crisis of obesity, Americans need to be thinking — about what we ourselves eat, and about how we’re going to deal with other people’s irresponsible decisions. Sure, it’d be better to engage in that debate of our own accord, but sometimes it takes a little push. If the soda ban provides the impetus, then I’m all for it.