Soda ban has New Yorkers in a fizzy

What's next on crusading mayor's list?

June 11, 2012|Susan Reimer

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, enjoying the freedom that only a final term in office can bring, has proposed banning the sale of soda and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, sports venues, delis and food carts, effective next March.

If you want your drink super-sized, you will have to buy two — or go back for a refill.

And New Yorkers, who never harbor an unexpressed thought for very long, are outraged.

Some see this as the nanny state gone wild, and another liberty, like the right to consume trans fats in restaurants, trampled by the health-nut mayor (who has built an edifice to his passion here in Baltimore). And conservative commentator Tucker Carlson said an American ought to be able to drink nine Mountain Dews a day if he wants to.

Others see this as a foolish priority when the schools, crime and sanitation need the mayor's attention. Comedian David Letterman hit that note in a monologue, saying, "Meth labs? Not a problem. Handguns? Not a problem. Manholes belching radioactive steam? Not a problem."

And Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert went head to head over at the Comedy Channel, with Mr. Stewart weeping and Mr. Colbert shooting a giant soda in the head.

But more than half of New Yorkers are overweight or obese — though on average, that's still better than the rest of the country — and a heck of a lot of those are kids and residents in poor neighborhoods, the city health department reported. And, the mayor argued when presenting his proposal, the costs associated with obesity and diabetes are bankrupting the health care system.

(Apparently there were no health department reports on the weight gains in neighborhoods where Starbucks frappucinos are consumed, so they aren't banned. They are considered a "milk product.")

This is the same mayor who banned smoking in parks, banned soda in schools, added bike lanes, forbade the use of food stamps on unhealthy food, and forced restaurants to include calorie counts on their menus.

This leads to the inevitable question of what's next on the mayor's bucket list — and New Yorkers have plenty of items they'd like to see banned.

When asked by a blogger at The New York Times, readers responded with a list that was less about unhealthy substances that it was about pet peeves. And New Yorkers have plenty of those.

Reciting daily menu specials instead of printing them was on the list. So were Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, overweight women in Capri pants and baby strollers on the subway.

Vendors who take up too much space on the sidewalks, leaf blowers and dogs on super-long leashes also made the list.

It took a long time before someone added automatic weapons to the to-be-banned list. But plastic bags were mentioned early. So were team jerseys monogrammed with your name.

I predict that the mayor will go after the size of pizza slices next, or the number of meat toppings you can order. Can hot dogs from street carts be far behind? Salt, be warned. Your time is coming. Junk food is in the cross-hairs these days; even Disney is cutting out commercials for sodas, sweets and snacks and changing the menus at its parks.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg was making the round of the news shows to tout his plan because he thinks every city should go after the empty calories in sugary drinks, but he made the mistake of doing these interviews on "National Donut Day," during which free doughnuts were handed out by Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme. Matt Lauer went after him on this point, a high water mark for the"Today" show these days.

And the mayor should remember that calorie consumers in glass houses should not throw stones.

When confronted, he confessed to the New York Daily News, who called him "Mayo Mike" on its cover, that he likes his BLTs with a lot of the artery clogging white stuff — but in "moderation."

You have to remember that this is the same guy who decided to tax yoga studios because their popularity made them a juicy target, so he has some trouble staying on message.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays. Her email is susan.reimer@baltsun.com. Follow her on @SusanReimer on Twitter.

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