In defending his controversial proposal to ban the sale of all sugary drinks over 16 ounces, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg boasted that, on average, New Yorkers outlive other Americans by three years. But that is only if they make it out of the womb. At present, 41% of all New York City babies are killed before birth.
To be sure, obesity is a massive problem in America (no pun intended), with very serious health complications for individuals and very real economic implications for the nation. In no way do I minimize the problem of obesity. But Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal is wrongheaded and, worse still, tragically hypocritical.
On the Today show, Matt Lauer needled the mayor about supporting Donut Day while calling for a ban on large sugary drinks, to which Bloomberg responded, “One donut’s not going to hurt you. In moderation, most things are OK.”
But what if people eat more than one donut? Or what if the one donut they choose to eat is of especially high caloric content, not to mention extra sugary?
Or what if a skinny person wants to eat three donuts, along with a 44 ounce Big Gulp? Should that be allowed? Or what if a severely obese person wants to eat just one donut, along with a 16 ounce Coke? Is that OK? Maybe people should be weighed before placing their order?
Perhaps a limit should be put on how many slices of pizza a person can eat in one sitting (in proportion, of course, to their BMI, body mass index)? Or maybe there should be a ceiling on how many pieces of apple pie someone can consume after a meal, or on how many bites of a deli sandwich he or she is allowed to ingest before having to put the rest in a to-go box? (If you’ve ever eaten at a famous NY deli, like the Carnegie Deli, you know that the size of drink you order is the least of your caloric concerns.)
What about ice cream parlors? How many scoops should they be allowed to serve per customer? And should chocolate-dipped sugar cones be banned altogether? And what about the ubiquitous street-corner vendors? Should they be permitted to sell regular-size candy bars but not king-sized? And how many of those candy-bars should they be allowed to sell per customer? Going back to the mayor’s proposal, who would actually enforce these regulations?
On a more serious note, what about the consumption of alcohol in city bars? Since there is a definite correlation between drinking and cirrhosis of the liver, should there be a limit on the kind of alcoholic drinks people are allowed to order or the amount of drinks they are allowed to consume?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.