Municipal Socialist

The Con

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is on the Municipal Socialist path again.  First it was a smoking ban then a ban of trans fats in the Five Boroughs.  Yesterday, Bloomberg announced he would put forward a ban on the amount of the sale of large amounts of sugary soda and other soft drinks.

(From the Philadelphia Inquirer)

NEW YORK – Want to super-size that soda? Sorry, but in New York City you could be out of luck.

In his latest effort to fight obesity in this era of Big Gulps and triple bacon cheeseburgers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing an unprecedented ban on large servings of soda and other sugary drinks at restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters.

Drinks would be limited to 16 ounces, which is considered a small at many fast-food joints.

“The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing,” Bloomberg said Thursday on MSNBC. He added: “We’ve got to do something.”

It is the first time an American city has directly attempted to limit soda portion sizes, and opponents again accused the three-term mayor of creating a “nanny state” and robbing New Yorkers of the right to choose for themselves.

But city officials said they believe the plan – expected to win approval from the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health and take effect as soon as March – will ultimately prove popular and push local governments around the country to adopt similar rules.

“We have a crisis of obesity,” said city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “People often go with the default choice, and if the default choice is something which is very unhealthy and is feeding into that health crisis, it’s appropriate for the government to say, ‘No, we think the default choice should be healthier.”‘

The soft drink industry responded with scathing criticism, even as the administration said it felt certain the companies could simply trim back their offerings from 20-ounce bottles to 16-ounce bottles – reversing a trend that has been under way for decades. In the 1950s, McDonald’s offered only one size for soft drinks: 7 ounces, city officials said.

Coca-Cola called the ban an “arbitrary mandate.”

“The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes,” the company said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase.”

The ban would apply only to sweetened drinks over 16 ounces that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. (A 12-ounce can of Coke has about 140 calories.) It would not affect diet soda or any drink that is at least half milk or milk substitute.

Nor would it apply to drinks sold in supermarkets or convenience stores, unless those businesses primarily sell foods meant to be eaten right away. Businesses would face fines of $200 per failed inspection.

City officials said some calorie-heavy drinks such as Starbucks Frappuccinos would probably be exempted because of their dairy content, while the Slurpees at 7-Eleven wouldn’t be affected because the stores are regulated as groceries.

Bloomberg said people who want to guzzle more than 16 ounces would still be free to order more than one drink. But he said that restricting sodas to 16 ounces each could still help curb consumption.

“You tend to eat all of the food in the container. If it’s bigger, you eat more. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less,” he said.

I am repulsed by a politician have the unmitigated gall to lecture and legislate the populace he/she represents on personal matters.  However, not every one of my peers in the fifth column agree seem to agree with me example: the New York Post editorial board.

Doubtless most people’s reaction when they first heard of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large-size sugary drinks was: There he goes again.

And, indeed, there’s a large dollop of Mike’s trademark nannyism at work here.

But there are some critical differences, too. Which is why this particular attempt to combat America’s obesity epidemic may well be worthwhile.

Bloomberg wants a citywide ban on sugary drinks sold in delis, fast-food restaurants and sports arenas in single servings larger than 16 ounces.

The ban would not apply to vending machines or convenience stores, nor to diet sodas, fruit drinks or dairy-based drinks.

20-ounce soda bottles.

If approved by the Board of Health — a formality, since Bloomberg controls it — the ban should take effect next March.

This isn’t the first time Mayor Mike has gone to war against sugary drinks, of course: He got them out of city and school vending machines, though his efforts to impose higher taxes on their sale failed.

But those approaches have not been shown to significantly reduce soda consumption.

Reducing portion size, on the other hand, most definitely has — as Bloomberg notes.

“You tend to eat all the food in the container in front of you,” he said. “If it’s a bigger container, you eat more. If somebody put it in a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less.”

And that’s not just speculation.

As Sarah Kliff notes in The Washington Post, in one noted experiment moviegoers were given their choice of medium or large buckets of stale, week-old popcorn.

Despite the bad taste, those with the large buckets ate 33.6 percent more popcorn — that is, increasing total calorie consumption by a third.

Moreover, a recent Belgian experiment showed that splitting a particular cookie in half reduced consumption by 25 percent — people were less likely to take seconds.

“The more general explanation of why large packages and portions increase consumption may be that they suggest larger consumption norms,” according to Cornell’s Brian Wansink, a leading researcher in food-portion size.

“They implicitly suggest what might be consumed as a ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’ amount to consume.”

Fact is, the proposal would not bar free refills or even multiple purchases — it’s meant to discourage, not to ban.

And, to be honest, localities around the nation have ended up adopting many of Bloomberg’s health-related initiatives.

We’ve never been fans of coercive government measures. But this one seems less onerous than most.

It’s certainly worth a try.

Quick note to the editors at the Post: they should have stopped Hitler at Munich in 1937.  Remember that phrase in the years to come.

That is all.


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