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New York - Big Sodas Today; Bagels With A Schmeer Tomorrow?

Published on: June 1, 2012 09:15 AM
By: AP
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New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, accompanied by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs,  addresses a news conference at New York's City Hall, Thursday, May 31, 2012. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks in the city's restaurants, delis and movie theaters in the hopes of combating obesity,  an expansion of his administration's efforts to encourage healthy behavior by limiting residents' choices. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, accompanied by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs,  addresses a news conference at New York's City Hall, Thursday, May 31, 2012. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks in the city's restaurants, delis and movie theaters in the hopes of combating obesity,  an expansion of his administration's efforts to encourage healthy behavior by limiting residents' choices. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

New York -  Just how far would a government go to protect us from ourselves?

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In New York City — which already bans smoking in public parks in the name of public health and bars artificial trans fats from food served in restaurants — Mayor Michael Bloomberg now wants to stop sales of large sodas and other sugary drinks, in a bid to battle obesity. But in a country where fries have been equated with freedom, Bloomberg’s proposal begs super-sized questions about government’s role in shaping and restricting individual choices. What’s next, a Twinkie purge?

“The idea of the state stepping in and treating adults essentially as children and trying to protect them for their own good, as opposed to the good of others, that’s been with us for as long as we’ve been around, as long as we’ve had governments,” says Glen Whitman, an economist at California State University-Northridge who is a critic of paternalistic public policy.

The most famous example was Prohibition, which barred the manufacture and sale of alcohol from 1919 to 1933. But Whitman and others see a new wave of intervention afoot, based on behavioral economics rather than religious moralism, and symbolized by moves like Bloomberg’s. Allow it to continue, they say, and who knows where it could lead?

If government officials can limit the size of sodas, why couldn’t they next decide to restrict portion sizes of food served in restaurants or the size of pre-made meals sold at supermarkets? Why wouldn’t a government determined to curb obesity restrict sales of doughnuts or pastries or — perish the thought, New Yorkers — ban bagels with a schmeer of cream cheese?

If government is within its right to restrict behavior to protect health, then why wouldn’t a mayor or other official ban risky sexual conduct or dangerous sports like skydiving? What’s to stop a mayor from requiring people to wear a certain type of sunscreen or limit the amount of time they can spend on the beach, to protect them from skin cancer?

The more ho-hum reality is that many of the policies restricting individual choice in the name of public health seem almost benign, like curbs on fireworks sales or enforcement of motorcycle helmet laws. But such moves represent a “constant creep until all of a sudden its extremely obvious,” said Mattie Duppler of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative anti-tax lobbying group that regularly spotlights examples of what it considers overreaching “Nanny State” public policy.

She points to moves by governments, like the city of Richmond, Calif., to impose taxes on sugary sodas and moves by states like Utah, which widened a ban on indoor smoking in public places to include electronic cigarettes that don’t emit smoke.

“What we’re seeing is government trying to put its fingers around the throat of anything that claims public health impetus,” Duppler says.

Others, though, have their doubts. Richard Thaler, co-author of “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness,” which argues for policies that encourage rather than mandate changes in consumer behavior, calls Bloomberg’s soda proposal “inartful and probably ineffective and too heavy-handed for my taste.”

But for him, most of the questions it raises are about practicality, rather than red flags.

Would a Bloomberg curb on big drinks ban free refills, asks Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago? Would it ban special offers to buy one drink and get the second at half-price?

Thaler, who says he is against government mandates or bans, argues that governments will get the most mileage from policies that nudge behavior, like placing fruit more prominently in school cafeterias. But he dismisses warnings that government efforts to improve public health risks sending the country down a slippery slope of more control and less individual choice.

“Any time people do something that people don’t like, they predict it will lead to something awful,” Thaler said. “I have not seen a big trend of governments becoming more intrusive.”

Even Duppler has her doubts about what Bloomberg’s soda proposal represents. It may be so politically iffy that it fizzles before it even gets off the ground. Then again, you never know what to expect from the city that never sleeps — and no longer smokes in bars, in airports or in the park.

“We’ll see,” she says of the soda proposal. “There’s some crazy ideas — and sometimes they just take hold


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Read Comments (24)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 01, 2012 at 09:12 AM Anonymous Says:

If you want the government to pay for your healthcare, then the government can dictate what you eat and how you spend your time. If you want your freedom, then don't keep signing up for free government health insurance!

2

 Jun 01, 2012 at 09:21 AM Anonymous Says:

Most heimeshe yidden have become aware of the health benefits of a whole grain and low fat diet. Thus, most would order a whole grain bagel with low or no-fat cream cheese (cholov yisroel of course). Thus, this is not a risk of potential government regulation we need to worry about

3

 Jun 01, 2012 at 09:23 AM lamdan Says:

The problem is we are so far down this slippery slope we are almost at the bottom & both Republicans & Democrats are at fault, Democrats want to control everyone's life & every aspect of it (like breathing sleeping included) & Republicans only the Moral issues the only solution is a Libertarian if not we are headed toward the United Soviet Union of States

4

 Jun 01, 2012 at 09:27 AM Food Police Says:

I am reading this while eating my breakfast of four slices of toast and butter. Are they going to send food police into the house too?

5

 Jun 01, 2012 at 09:56 AM Larry Levine Says:

There's a law in New York City requiring seatbelts. This law protects everyone. Enforcement is difficult.

There's a law in NYC banning mobile phone use while driving. This law protects everyone. Enforcement is difficult.

There's a law in NYC banning DWI. This law protects everyone. Enforcement is difficult.

Banning large soft drinks is delving into an area that really protects no one, as the result of drinking large soft drinks is an individual risk that only effects the drinker.

If the Mayor doesn't want to add lots of sugar to his diet, let him watch his intake.

Concentrating on fixing the infrastructure of the city could really add a positive note to the administration. Thin people and safe drivers can fall through a hole in the street just as well as obese people.k

Mr. Mayor, it's time you realize that there are regular people living in this city who might not meet your standards of personal wellbeing. Education is in order, not legislation. A Higher Authority has long ago set those standards and even He has difficulty with enforcement.

6

 Jun 01, 2012 at 10:20 AM maxedout Says:

next will be the thursday nite kugel/kishke/chulent. Fressers beware!! Your cholesterol may go down!!

7

 Jun 01, 2012 at 10:39 AM Anonymous Says:

Big brother is watching you.
first comes the soda, then who knows what else they might do?

8

 Jun 01, 2012 at 10:42 AM Anonymous Says:

Why punish skinny people? I know several thin people who drink sugary sodas (and eat fries, candy ect). it doesn't effect their weight. why stop them from having something? they manage to maintain their weight- its not the item but the consumer!!
maybe its a fork and knife problem, not an item by item issue. A soda every once in a while is ok- its when the consumer lacks self control that the real issues set in.

9

 Jun 01, 2012 at 10:52 AM Voice-of-Reason Says:

Portion size has increased like crazy since in the last 20 years. If you slice a chili late Danish it's like 8 slices of kokosh cake

10

 Jun 01, 2012 at 11:23 AM mogenavrochom Says:

It is NOT a Mitzvah to overeat and get fat. "Some" yiden wake up on Shabbat morning with a piece of cake and cup of coffee before Davening!
After Davening, they head for the kiddush, sample a few pieces of cake and some chips, cholent, kugel, some herring, a full meal on any other day of the week. And then head home eat another meal–and a large one at that. Again with wine, challah, maybe some chicken, cholent, cold cuts, and dessert. After minchah–seudah shelishi; maybe a roll, some tuna fish, and a piece of now stale cake left over from kiddush. Often not even hungry, but it's a social thing & also a Mitzvah! Saturday night, a slice of pizza (or two or three).
In America, the Orthodox lifestyle has led many into a dangerous cycle of overeating and indulgence. Under the banner of frumkeit, some Yiden have adopted a lifestyle that’s literally going to cut years and perhaps decades from their lives. I worry about the long-term health of Orthodox Jews, especially in America. I fear G-D FORBID an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, and of course, unnecessary deaths resulting from complications of obesity.

11

 Jun 01, 2012 at 11:31 AM Materetsky Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

If you want the government to pay for your healthcare, then the government can dictate what you eat and how you spend your time. If you want your freedom, then don't keep signing up for free government health insurance!

Well said.

12

 Jun 01, 2012 at 11:32 AM Materetsky Says:

I don't think banning smoking in parks is comprable to banning artificial Trans fats... Re: second hand smoke

13

 Jun 01, 2012 at 11:50 AM maxedout Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

Why punish skinny people? I know several thin people who drink sugary sodas (and eat fries, candy ect). it doesn't effect their weight. why stop them from having something? they manage to maintain their weight- its not the item but the consumer!!
maybe its a fork and knife problem, not an item by item issue. A soda every once in a while is ok- its when the consumer lacks self control that the real issues set in.

"its when the consumer lacks self control that the real issues set in"
yes - it can lead to mixed dancing, or even worse, connecting to the internet, which can, g-d forbid, lead to finding a job.

14

 Jun 01, 2012 at 12:12 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
lamdan Says:

The problem is we are so far down this slippery slope we are almost at the bottom & both Republicans & Democrats are at fault, Democrats want to control everyone's life & every aspect of it (like breathing sleeping included) & Republicans only the Moral issues the only solution is a Libertarian if not we are headed toward the United Soviet Union of States

You maybe a lamdan but not in public health. Health costs goes up because of health statistics showing higher cost for diabetes and other obesity issues . I pay and everyone pays for someone elses fressing and drinking and as long as it is a public issue the public domain rightfuly should have a say

15

 Jun 01, 2012 at 12:23 PM grandpajoe Says:

Listen - when it comes to eating - Hakodosh Baruch Hu - gave us shabbos and as my doctor says - we get 'thanksgiving' every Shabbos - Chulent, Kugel, Herring, Shnaps, etc...
The Mayor is well intended - but it should be left to the individual

16

 Jun 01, 2012 at 12:42 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
maxedout Says:

next will be the thursday nite kugel/kishke/chulent. Fressers beware!! Your cholesterol may go down!!

So will the demand for statitins, bypass grafts and stenting . So will health cost go down, supply and demand or the free market system

17

 Jun 01, 2012 at 12:54 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
grandpajoe Says:

Listen - when it comes to eating - Hakodosh Baruch Hu - gave us shabbos and as my doctor says - we get 'thanksgiving' every Shabbos - Chulent, Kugel, Herring, Shnaps, etc...
The Mayor is well intended - but it should be left to the individual

Hakodehs Boruch Hu gave us shabbos but not everyone has the same genetic history. If your father had diabetes very likely you will have it too, Actuaries calculate health insurance rates based on the frequency of certain conditions. I should not have to pay for your gorging yourself with chulent, kugel and schnaps. Unless you pay out of your pocket it is fine but if you have insurance coverage everyone else pays too for your schnaps and fatty kugel

18

 Jun 01, 2012 at 01:44 PM ProminantLawyer Says:

Charles Finkelstein would find this abhorant, obnoxcious and not in accord with rabbinic athority.

19

 Jun 01, 2012 at 01:59 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
mogenavrochom Says:

It is NOT a Mitzvah to overeat and get fat. "Some" yiden wake up on Shabbat morning with a piece of cake and cup of coffee before Davening!
After Davening, they head for the kiddush, sample a few pieces of cake and some chips, cholent, kugel, some herring, a full meal on any other day of the week. And then head home eat another meal–and a large one at that. Again with wine, challah, maybe some chicken, cholent, cold cuts, and dessert. After minchah–seudah shelishi; maybe a roll, some tuna fish, and a piece of now stale cake left over from kiddush. Often not even hungry, but it's a social thing & also a Mitzvah! Saturday night, a slice of pizza (or two or three).
In America, the Orthodox lifestyle has led many into a dangerous cycle of overeating and indulgence. Under the banner of frumkeit, some Yiden have adopted a lifestyle that’s literally going to cut years and perhaps decades from their lives. I worry about the long-term health of Orthodox Jews, especially in America. I fear G-D FORBID an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, and of course, unnecessary deaths resulting from complications of obesity.

I totally, totally agree with you. When I was a child the coke bottle was 7.5 fluid ounces or 221 ml. Today the soda is around 300 or 330 ml. Everything has gone up likewise; however make laws will not solve the problem; education will. Teaching kids to read wisely and getting outside to play is better. Ever since television and computer people are fatter because of all their lack of excercise; eating more and excercizing less is a killer. We need to teach not legislate.

20

 Jun 01, 2012 at 02:22 PM DO NOT STEROTYPE Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

If you want the government to pay for your healthcare, then the government can dictate what you eat and how you spend your time. If you want your freedom, then don't keep signing up for free government health insurance!

I control my weight.
Nobody and no government help pays for my health care.

21

 Jun 01, 2012 at 03:10 PM Babishka Says:

Reply to #10  
mogenavrochom Says:

It is NOT a Mitzvah to overeat and get fat. "Some" yiden wake up on Shabbat morning with a piece of cake and cup of coffee before Davening!
After Davening, they head for the kiddush, sample a few pieces of cake and some chips, cholent, kugel, some herring, a full meal on any other day of the week. And then head home eat another meal–and a large one at that. Again with wine, challah, maybe some chicken, cholent, cold cuts, and dessert. After minchah–seudah shelishi; maybe a roll, some tuna fish, and a piece of now stale cake left over from kiddush. Often not even hungry, but it's a social thing & also a Mitzvah! Saturday night, a slice of pizza (or two or three).
In America, the Orthodox lifestyle has led many into a dangerous cycle of overeating and indulgence. Under the banner of frumkeit, some Yiden have adopted a lifestyle that’s literally going to cut years and perhaps decades from their lives. I worry about the long-term health of Orthodox Jews, especially in America. I fear G-D FORBID an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, and of course, unnecessary deaths resulting from complications of obesity.

Even though you're supposed to eat differently on Shabbos than on the rest of the week, this doesn't mean overeating! A grilled shnitzel and fresh vegetable salad is just as choshuv as cholent and kishka (which is actually kind of nauseating during the summer) and a grilled salmon filet or sushi roll in place of gefilte fish is a nice change of pace.

If you bake bulka rolls instead of big braided challah you will eat less, if you have a lot of guests then each guest gets lechem mishna. You can have oat or spelt or whole wheat or eggless challah.

22

 Jun 01, 2012 at 03:18 PM Aryeh Says:

The public never voted to increase portion sizes, they were introduced to us by businesses hungry for our patronage. The government owes it to us to step in as a counterbalance and level the playing field. This is long overdue and a tremendous mitzva. Keep up the good work Bloomy!

23

 Jun 01, 2012 at 04:24 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #18  
ProminantLawyer Says:

Charles Finkelstein would find this abhorant, obnoxcious and not in accord with rabbinic athority.

As a prominent lawyer you should know how to spell

24

 Jun 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM Twitterevitch Says:

first of all many restaurants that offer fountain soda offer FREE refills, so if someone feels the need for 32 ounces of Coke or 48 ounces of Fruit Punch all you have to do is walk back a few times and you can drink your way to diabetes. I'm an adult and I wouldn't mind a bit of help in regulating my portions of unhealthy foods. The part of our personality that wants 32 ounces of soda is a child, and it's easier if someone else tells him "no."

25

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