Monday, June 4, 2012

Don't Super Size New York City

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed an amendment to the city health code to prohibit the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants and other locations in the city.
The amendment would prohibit food service establishments from  selling sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. It would apply to restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums or arenas, the administration said. Sixteen ounces is larger than most soda cans but smaller than most soda bottles.
A sugary drink is defined as any beverage sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contains more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces and contains less than 51% milk or milk substitute by volume as an ingredient.
For example, according to the administration, a diet soda, a milk shake or sweetened latte that is larger than 16 ounces wouldn't be banned.
(Source: New York City Plans to Restrict Big-Size Soda Sales, Wall Street Journal)
This proposed amendment could set some very interesting precedents. NYC was one of the first places to require that food service establishments list the calorie content in a visible and obvious manner on all menus. That practice is not yet wide-spread nationwide, but has become more common.
I remember my first trip to NYC after the calories on the menus was implemented. I went into a Starbucks to get a spiced apple cider. I love those things. When I looked up and saw there are 228 calories in the small "Tall" size, it stopped me dead in my tracks. A regular size apple juice has about half that many calories, and considerably less sugar. I bought the apple juice instead of the cider.
I'm not a New Yorker, nor do I ever intend to become one. I have no doubt that if I lived in the city when the calorie law was up for discussion that I would have opposed it. It would have/did put an unfair cost on businesses, and it doesn't have a quantifiable, measurable results or effect.
This new proposed amendment is very similar. It does not take away anyone's right to choose, or to buy a drink. The thirsty and caffeine addicted people of the world can still drink as much as they want to. They will just have to buy more than one cup to do it.
No one hates "nanny-state" government more than I do. I despise government interference and regulation. Therefore, I am naturally and initially opposed to this amendment. However, I think back to my experience in the Starbucks and it gives me a reason to think twice- and that is the point here. Consumers would still have the ability to choose how much they want to drink. But they will be forced to think twice before they do.
I actually can't think of a downside to this amendment. Sure, it would be a hassle, but it would be good for people in the end.
But, I am and always will be, against government over-regulation. So I just can't get behind this proposal.
The reason this amendment should be more than just a passing interest story to the country is that New York tends to be very influential on the rest of the nation. People do need to sit up and pay attention to this one. This is definitely the sort of issue that could start in a harmless manner in one town (like the calories on the menu), and end up with a much more intrusive regulation in another city down the road.

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