Good intentions not always enough

Bloomberg’s beverage policy crossed the line

By The Mercury

We suppose we should cheer the New York judge’s ruling overturning New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s partial ban on sugar-laden soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.

The ruling protects Americans’ right to giant soft drinks, and it preserves the right of businesses that cater to Americans who insist on 32-ounce Cokes or Pepsis.

“We are elated with today’s decision,” said the National Association of Theatre Owners. “The issue was never about obesity, nor about soda. This was all about power. The court rejected the major’s attempt to unilaterally tell New Yorkers what to drink.”

The theater owners group was one of a number of organizations that challenged the ban. Among other plaintiffs were the National Restaurant Association, the American Beverage Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

No question Mayor Bloomberg overreached, though he has vowed to appeal. But, at least for the mayor, the issue wasn’t about power; it was about obesity and diseases associated with diets in which large quantities of sugary soft drinks are a contributing factor.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday he said, “We’re not banning anything. It’s called portion control. All we’re doing in New York is reminding you that it’s not in your interest to have too many empty calories. If you want to have 32 ounces, just buy two 16-ounce cups.”

Understandably disappointed with the ruling, he insisted that “It is reasonable and responsible to draw the line.”

Unfortunately for Mayor Bloomberg, it is reasonable and responsible to hope that people will exercise moderation in the consumption of sugary drinks. And it is reasonable and responsible to point out the potential consequences of drinking 32-ounce soft drinks. But the judge made clear that it was not reasonable and responsible to interfere as the mayor did.

As the judge noted, New York City’s health board was not authorized to ban or even restrict consumption of a legal product on the premise that doing so was “controlling a chronic disease.”

Our sense is that Mayor Bloomberg meant well, but most people don’t want the government telling them what’s good for them or what they should or shouldn’t eat or drink. When he crossed the line in setting limits on the size of sugary soft drinks people could buy, his intentions became irrelevant.

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