In a monumental strike against the obesity epidemic, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced plans for a city-wide ban on all sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces during an interview in the Governor's Room at City Hall yesterday.
The proposed ban would affect most enterprises that peddle the empty-calorie beverages, from fast-food franchises, to sports arenas, movie theaters, food carts and delis. Not just carbonated sodas but sweetened teas, sweetened "fruit" drinks, and sports drinks would also be affected by the ban. Not included in the ban are diet drinks, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, alcoholic beverages, or sodas sold in convenience or grocery stores.
This is not the first of Bloomberg's initiatives to promote public health during his 11 years in office. Extensive smoking bans, posting health inspectors' grades in restaurant windows, trans fat bans in restaurants, and posting calorie counts on restaurant menus are among the other groundbreaking measures the mayor has launched in the city. The new ban on large soft drinks is viewed as nearly sure to pass and could take effect as soon as March of next year.
Here is what Bloomberg had to say about the ban, as quoted by the New York Times yesterday:
"Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, 'Oh, this is terrible.' New York City is not about wringing your hands; it's about doing something," he said. "I think that's what the public wants the mayor to do."
The New York City beverage association is less than happy with the proposal, and initiatives like this one have earned the mayor the nickname "Nanny Bloomberg" from people who think such restrictions infringe on personal freedom. But the fact is that no one -- no one -- benefits from drinking beverages loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors and flavors. In fact, scientific studies show a definite and direct correlation between sugary beverage consumption and obesity in both children and adults.
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Judging by the disturbing eating habits North Miami middle school students confessed to me earlier this week, I think it's time Miami-Dade County took some similar steps to protect the health of its residents. After all, the "freedom" to become obese, develop degenerative diseases, and become a burden on the health care system (read: other taxpayers) infringes on the freedoms of fellow citizens, does it not? (Taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid pay for well over a third of the annual $150 billion cost of obesity-related medical bills in this country.)
Better yet, let's not wait for someone to tell us we're not allowed to buy sodas. Let's just not buy sodas. Let's drink water. What could be simpler than that?