Kate Hicks

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has recently earned the ire of many for his hairbrained attempt at curbing obesity by banning sugary drinks. Today, he took to the Twitters to promote an op-ed he wrote for USA Today, defending his policy:
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If I may interject, seems like the Mayor is ignoring some basic math here: 2 x 16 = 32, and 32 > 20. But a look at the op-ed itself reveals that this plan of his isn't really tethered in logic:

Together, these facts strongly suggest that if people are served smaller portion sizes of sugary drinks, they will consume less, gain less weight and be healthier — and we may just start to reverse the catastrophic epidemic of obesity.

Critics claim this policy restricts choice. But, currently, people almost never have the choice to purchase as small as an 8-ounce beverage, which was considered adequate for decades.

Under our proposal, people could still choose to drink as much soda as they want. If 16 ounces (promoted as enough for three people in the 1950s!) is not enough, people could purchase two portions. Is that too much an inconvenience to reverse a national health catastrophe?

First of all, his defense against the rightful charge that he's impeding on freedom of choice is...people don't have the choice of a smaller drink? By his logic, because restaurants don't serve 8 oz beverages, he has to ban any drinks over 16 oz. His "choice" argument seems to be a better defense of a mandate that restaurants include smaller portions, rather than a ban on larger ones. And, who's to say restaurants won't institute two-for-one deals on 16 oz beverages, as a means of manipulating public outrage for purposes of making more sales? After all, if those evil corporations are capable of foisting larger portion sizes on poor, unsuspecting Americans, who's to say they won't harness the backlash against this policy to wring a profit?

The Mayor also compares the policy to bans on cigarettes in bars and mandatory calorie posting in restaurants, but that's apples to oranges. The cigarette ban could pass muster because of the immediate neighborhood effect smoking has on others -- secondhand smoke, and all -- so even though it's a restriction of choice, the argument goes that fellow patrons aren't choosing to inhale smoke. As for calorie posting, that's a policy that helps people make more informed choices: it doesn't add to or take away from their options, just shows them what, exactly, they're picking. The soda (or, if you're Midwestern like me, pop) ban is much more intrusive, as it restricts actual options.

Now, you'd think the mayor's overbearing mom-ness would translate into drug policy, right?

Wrong.

Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had previously defended low-level marijuana arrests as a way to deter more serious crime, said in a statement that the governor’s proposal “strikes the right balance” in part because it would still allow the police to arrest people who were smoking marijuana in public.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, plans to hold a news conference at the Capitol on Monday to announce his plans to seek the change in state law. Administration officials said the governor would seek to downgrade the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana in public view from a misdemeanor to a violation, with a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.

Mr. Bloomberg said his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, would attend the governor’s news conference “to show our support for his proposal.”

“We look forward to working with legislative leaders to help pass a bill before the end of session,” the mayor said, referring to this year’s legislative session in Albany, which is scheduled to conclude in three weeks.

So there you have it, residents of New York: if Mayor Bloomberg gets his way, you can have your pot, but if the munchies hit, good luck finding a 32 oz Mountain Dew to wash down your Taco Bell.


Kate Hicks

Kate Hicks is one of Townhall.com's web editors. You can follow her on Twitter @KateBHicks.