Monday, June 4, 2012

Proposed Sugar Drink Limit Could Lead To A Book Ban

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, the nation’s largest city, wants the city’s residents to get smaller. He is proposing a limited ban on certain large-sized sugary drinks that are served in a few venues.

The ban has a zillion loopholes to be practical, but nevertheless, it is a ban of a legal product. Is it government’s role to police what we consume? If it regulates soda, what is next? Books?
Don’t laugh. It can happen, maybe not now, but down the road, perhaps under different circumstances. And when someone tries to ban certain books or limit the sale of information and ideas, something like this quirky soda ban can be pointed to as precedent.

Whereas Bloomberg’s predecessor was all about law and order, even at the sacrifice of civil rights, Bloomberg seems to be about health and order, even at the sacrifice of civil rights. He already has banned smoking just about everywhere, from restaurants to stadiums to public parks. Now he is trying to tackle how fat New Yorkers have become.  I applaud his intentions and think something drastic or different has to be done to help the city and country reverse its obesity epidemic but I am just not a fan of bans that take on legal products.

People need to restrain themselves and make better choices. In the case of sweet drinks it is evident Bloomberg feels we no longer can make such decisions for ourselves. But such a ban just won’t work when it singles out a single class of foods. If you’re gonna tackle sugary drinks, take on other things that we imbibe: cakes, cookies, junk food, fast food, alcohol, etc. Further, the ban is too limited. People can buy multiple sweet drinks – just not in one single container. They can buy big-sized drinks at 7-Eleven or the supermarket – but Bloomberg says not at a Yankee game or movie theater.  Further the definition of a sugary drink is screwy. A milkshake is fine. A big bucket of juice, too. But not a Snapple.

Will this really address the bigger problem? Doubtful.

So you have a ban that is insufficient, on a legal product. You blew it on both ends.  Further, the ban will cost something to implement and the consumer will end up paying when he has to buy two single drinks instead of one big one.  It’s incomplete and hypocritical. Why do we sell large quantities of beer at a stadium but now ask that a big lemonade drink be pushed aside? Which one poses a greater danger?

Most things that government regulates, such as how much one can drink while driving is intended to protect others from being victims of those who don’t consume a product responsibly. Same goes for smoking. Stopping the innocent from taking in second-hand smoke is appreciated. But in the case of obesity, it impacts the obese and does not necessarily cause problems for others. On the other hand, the obese cost our healthcare system resources and force the government to pay the bill. So maybe we can say that one’s eating behavior does impact society and endangers others.

But aside from whether the ban will be practical or necessary, my question is this: Should we, as a people, oppose any such bans because any ban on our rights and legal products opens the door to book bans? Think about it.

The government can say that people are consuming too many books about topics it considers a danger to people’s mental health, whatever these books may be, and thus feels compelled to act under such interests. Maybe too many people read fiction to escape reality and as a result of being consumed by novels and such content, one doesn’t make time for --or take an interest in – participating in government or the real world. Perhaps we should ban fiction under the guise that it is leading to the downfall of society.

I think Bloomberg should go all the way with his ban on crap food. He should cover more products and food classes and to a greater degree than just big drinks in arenas, theaters, etc. He would have his ass handed to him faster than a New York minute. But by doing this mini-ban he may just find enough support to sneak it through. But the more people he pisses off, the greater the level of opposition will grow. He may be launching a plan to save America from itself – or he may be laying a plan for fascists to come in and limit our freedoms or censor/ban some books.

Americans cannot tolerate the enforcement of an arbitrary ban on the freedoms enjoyed presently. And if you believe in the domino effect, don’t support a ban on one thing if you understand it may actually lead to the loss of protections for our beloved books.

Plus it would be helpful if the mayor was not a contradictory blunderhead . The day after he announced the proposed drink ban NYC celebrated the 75th National Donut Day with a supportive proclamation signed by the mayor.

Supersize that hypocrisy!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer.  You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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