On Soda and Mayoral Parenting

On the heels of his successful anti-smoking campaign in NYC, Mayor Mike Bloomberg made a move to start banning extra large sugary soft drinks to combat obesity, particularly in children.

Basically, you'll hear one of three utterly ridiculolus arguments against it.

1) Sodas aren't the only thing that makes you fat.

Totally true, but does that make the soda ban a bad idea?  It's a flawed logic argument.  Bike helmets won't prevent all deaths on bikes either, but that doesn't make them a bad idea--just an incomplete solution.  People are asking, "So, are they going to bad fast food, too?"

Well, actually, they have--partially.  NYC has banned trans-fats in NYC food establishments because they're terrible for you--and you know what, no one has even noticed. 

So, we all know drinking our sugar is one of many issues--not enough exercise, too many carbs in general, etc.  This is just a low hanging start.  The right place to start?  I don't know, but that doesn't matter.  The only question that matters is "Should we be free to consume 50 to 100 grams of sugar at a pop?" 

The answer, as any doctor would agree, is definitively no. 

2) We should be free to consume whatever we want, because it doesn't harm anyone else, unlike secondhand smoke.

This is another ridiculous argument.  No, there's no such thing has second hand carbs, but the financial cost that obesity related diseases are inflicting on our healthcare system has ballooned to out of control proportions.  It effects me when I have to subsidize other people's poor health habits.  I watch my diet, make healthy eating choices, exercise, and yet my healthcare costs are 50% higher than they were just 4 years ago.  No, obesity related diseases aren't the *only* reason, but they're a big factor given the growth of diabetes and heart disease.

Plus, this argument only goes for adults.  Where have you seen the highest diabetes rates and obesity rates?  Children.  Children are being affected in ways they don't have the capacity or freedom to make decisions about.  This isn't just about adults making solitary decisions.  They're also buying for kids.  If your parents aren't looking out for you, should we just take the position that you're screwed and we're not going to try and improve your environment?  That would be unfortunate. 

So, losing our parents and loved ones to obesity related diseases, and potentially costing our kids their future--yeah, that affects other people.

3)  We're working our way to a "nanny" state.

I don't think any of the wealthy white people who are complaining about the "nanny" state really have any idea what this means.  As people around the world die over the right to vote, the idea that the US is going anywhere close to that is maybe even borderline offensive. 

I don't think any of these people really understand what it means to have choice be limited.  I teach up at Fordham University in the Bronx.  When I used to teach in the late afternoons, I'd walk down Fordham Road looking for something to eat.  It really struck me how limited my choices were.  There aren't any Chopt salad locations up there.  No Whole Foods.  In poorer neighborhoods across the city, there are fast food joints after fast food joint--at a concentration not seen in the kinds of places that the naysayers live. 

That's restriction of freedom--where you literally cannot access healthy food at a reasonable cost. 

Ending the reign of the Super Big Gulp--that's not a "nanny" state.  That's government actually focused on the real problems of society.  If you don't think obesity should be one of our top two or three concerns, you're just out of touch with reality. 

Bloomberg, the rich white dude himself, makes for an easy target.  If Cory Booker had spearheaded this, I think people might have a different reaction.  No one likes the idea of the rich and powerful calling the shots in our lives--even if they're making good calls.

Unfortunately, we've collectively failed at making the right call on this one for ourselves.  Sugar is an addiction, so whether we're just not responsible or its out of our physiological control, we clearly needed some help here.  The numbers don't lie.

So thanks for looking out for us, Mayor Mike.  I didn't need this law, but millions of people did.