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Mayor Bloomberg and Soda Ban: Protecting The People From Themselves

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New York City Mayor Bloomberg is concerned about obesity in America. So concerned is the health conscious mayor that he has recently proposed a city-wide ban on the sale of large-sized, sugary drinks of 16 ounces or more at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. “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 last week, “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Maybe most people agree with the mayor. And I won’t make the case that it is healthy to consume sugary drinks. The question is, though, is the idea to impose a ban on sodas or any item that is legal to purchase going too far?

For Mayor Bloomberg, the bans didn’t start with sodas. Initially the focus was on smoking. In 2002, the mayor signed a ban of smoking in NYC bars and restaurants. Last year Bloomberg signed into law a ban on smoking in New York City’s parks, beaches, public plazas and boardwalks. CNN Anchor Randi Kaye explained her support of this ban, “When I go for a run in Central  Park, I like to smell the fresh flowers and the fall foliage when the  leaves turn, not people’s second-hand smoke. Central Park is a park. It is not the city’s ash tray.”

The rationale behind the smoking bans is to limit 2nd hand smoke, which has often been cited as hazardous to health in adults and children. The smoking bans did not make smoking illegal, people who wanted to smoke could still smoke, but they were limited as to where they could smoke. I agree with Kaye and other supporters of the indoor and outdoor smoking bans; smoking around others can adversely affect others.

A ban on sodas, however, is an example of extreme government overreach. Why is the mayor of NYC only focusing on soda? Why not a ban on burgers, fries, pizza, ice cream, cake, (etc.)? Throughout his time as mayor, Bloomberg has used government to protect people from themselves. The bans on where people can legally smoke are defensible because of the adverse health effects of 2nd hand smoke, but drinking excessive amounts of soda is legal and does not hurt others. It only hurts the person doing the drinking, and that is a choice a person should be allowed to make without government intervention.

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