Last Friday was the 75th celebration of a sweet holiday: National Donut Day. To commemorate the occasion, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared the day “NYC Donut Day,” and the city enjoyed free donuts from a famed local establishment. The previous day, however, Bloomberg proposed a new ban aimed at fighting obesity in the city: restaurants, delis, and movie theatres can no longer sell super sized sugary sodas. Many around the city and even nationwide are criticizing his latest move as an infringment on personal freedoms.
The details of the proposed ban involve size, content, and location. First, a 16 ounce drink would be the largest serving size allowed under the “Limit on Size of Sugary Beverages” ban. Second, the ban would only apply to those drinks that contained more than 25 calories per 8 ounces (consequently, it exempts diet sodas). Finally, only establishments that served prepared foods would be forced to comply with the regulation.
Naturally, soda companies and fast food chains came out against the proposed measure. However, a telling criticism was thrown at Bloomberg Friday morning on the Today show, when host Matt Lauer, in an interview with the mayor, called the drink ban “ridiculous.” Many who live in and visit the city have echoed this belief. Some residents, however, have supported Bloomberg’s numerous efforts to decrease the obesity problem, citing the lower obesity rates in the city during his time in office.
What should be obvious to all is that, in a city with a population of over 8 million, lower rates of obesity cannot ultimately be attributed to the mayor’s office. It is eventually the consumer, or in some cases a parent or caregiver, who decides what to eat or drink and how often to exercise. There is something to be said for providing information to the consumers so they are educated, but an outright ban does not guarantee a specific outcome.
On that note, this program leaves some widely gaping loopholes. The mayor, among others, noted that people who want the larger drink will find the way to get it. For example, they could order two smaller drinks at a restaurant, or walk down the street and purchase the 32 ounce bottle at a grocery store, an establishment that the proposed ban would not affect.
Adding to this disappointing proposal, its fate will be decided solely by the Board of Health, whose members are appointed by Mayor Bloomberg. Unsurprisingly, they plan to approve the ban on June 12, and it will go into affect six months later. In the grand scheme of things, a person will be fine without a super sized soft drink. We will not be fine, however, when government grows so large as to make personal decisions for us, as if it possesses better knowledge than we. This ban is but one of many steps now leading us toward that state.
Editor’s note: Katie Watson is a Winston County native and author. She works in Washington D.C. as an Educational Programs Associate at Charles Koch Institute.