Ban Sugary Drinks Today. Donuts Tomorrow?

OK. When I was teaching a course in media ethics at Kent State, this kind of situation used to drive the advertising majors nuts. Should the government be able via regulation or other means to modify individual decisions and habits involving food and drink? The advertising students would opine, ah, no.

Many, I’m convinced, had caveat emptor tattooed on their forearm.

Here’s a situation where I gotta agree with them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled plans to ban large sugary drinks from restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. Here’s from the NYT, “New York Plans to Ban Sales of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks“:

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages [note to self: whew]; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery stores or convenience stores.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.

“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.”

A spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, an arm of the soda industry’s national trade group, criticized the city’s proposal on Wednesday. The industry has clashed repeatedly with the city’s health department, saying it has unfairly singled out soda; industry groups have bought subway advertisements promoting their cause.

“The New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top,” the industry spokesman, Stefan Friedman, said. “It’s time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity. These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.”

Clearly, obesity is a major issue in this country. According to an article in USA Today, obesity could affect nearly half of all Americans in less than 20 years. That fact represents some serious challenges in terms of health, medical costs and flying while in the middle seat of an airplane. It also represents a national security issue. Hey, when the Chinese start pounding on our door demanding to collect on all the IOUs, we better hope that there are at least a few people in the USA capable of pulling themselves off the couch to at least let them know we are still at home.

Still, the New York ban seems kinda silly. If you really want to down an unlimited amount of sugar water, couldn’t you just buy a larger number of smaller bottles? I’m sure, as usual, I’m missing the bigger picture here.

Maybe Stephen Colbert has a better perspective:

On Thursday’s Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert lashed out at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg over his proposal to ban supersized sugary drinks in restaurants, movie theaters, food carts and concession stands, calling him a “sick bastard.”

“No more giant soda at the movies for the entire family to share. No, the man says. No, you can’t have it,” Colbert lamented.

“No more giant sodas? Come on! This is America, the land of plenty,” Colbert protested. “We haven’t even achieved Type 3 Diabetes yet. We’re so close. And I don’t know about you folks, but i can’t drink less than 16 ounces. I need a soda so large that James Cameron wants to go to the bottom of it.”

Doesn’t everyone? Sigh.

Oh well. What’s next? Donuts?

By the way, New York this morning is the venue for an event celebrating the 75th Annual Donut Day.

Go figure.



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