Nanny Bloomberg Gets His Way: Soda Restriction Passed

Kevin Glass

9/13/2012 12:06:00 PM - Kevin Glass
The New York City Board of Health today approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban sugary drinks that come in sizes larger than 16 oz on a unanimous 9-0 vote. This was mildly surprising considering the national controversy that broke out in the wake of Bloomberg's initial plan, but the New York City bureaucrats have never been receptive to public outcry.

The measure, unless blocked by a judge, will take effect in six months. The health board vote was the only regulatory approval needed to become binding in the city, but the American soft-drink industry has strongly opposed the plan and vowed this week to try to fight the measure by other means, possibly in the courts.

The restrictions would not affect fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; no-calorie diet sodas would not be affected, but establishments with self-service drink fountains, like many fast-food restaurants, would not be allowed to stock cups larger than 16 ounces.

Even for fellow food nannies, this is a bridge too far and too indiscriminate. One of the founders of Honest Tea, a beverage company that was recently sold to Coca-Cola, wrote (ironically?) for Bloomberg View:

I fully agree with Mayor Michael Bloomberg (also the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News) that most drinks are too sweet and that we should do something about this. Indeed, I have. Fourteen years ago, I started Honest Tea Inc. with one of my students. The idea was to make tea that tastes like tea, not liquid candy. This year, the company will sell 100 million bottles of tea, ades and kids’ pouches, all with fewer than 100 calories a package.

Here I was thinking I was part of the solution only to find that these drinks will be banned. Banned! Why? Because the products come in 16.9-ounce (500-milliliter) bottles and thus exceed the free pass for drinks at 16 ounces.

The Bloomberg ban is emblematic of how nannies address the "problems" they see: heavy-handed, indiscriminate and in violation of public opinion. Bloomberg has quickly alienated allies like Richard Thaler - a University of Chicago professor who has pioneered nanny state policies.

This complete disdain for individual liberty and consumer choice is sadly in line with the rest of Michael Bloomberg's tenure - from cigarettes to calorie counts to traffic cameras to domestic surveillance, Mayor Bloomberg treats the office of the mayor as a position through which he can subjugate the undesirable aspects of New Yorkers' choices. As I wrote for Townhall Magazine:

The term “Big Brother” is thrown around with impunity when it comes to Big Government, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg really does believe that government’s highest calling is not staying out of people’s way but restricting their liberties to supposedly keep them safe.

New York City has a lot of concerns to address, but Bloomberg places food as Enemy No. 1. Like many leftists, he sees obesity as a society-wide problem that can—and must—be controlled with government restrictions.