A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Good news! Remember how five minutes ago you read an article about how Bloomberg is going to go all Volstead and limit the sale and promotion of alcohol in our city? Well, that was so five minutes ago. It was just an idea, apparently, and according to his spokesperson, “one reason the mayor has been successful in office is because we think there are no bad ideas in brainstorming, and then we weigh them against other concerns.”

Except for the ideas that have already been attempted and proven to be utterly stupid at best and dangerous at worst – like the 18th Amendment, for example.

I mean, I suppose the results of that one could still be weighed out. On the one hand, it was a monumental failure and gave rise to violent organized crime as we know it in this country.

On the other hand, that means it also led to several excellent films, a pretty decent HBO series, and an inspired crop of Prohibition-style cocktail lounges that serve fun drinks in coupe glasses, which everyone knows are the most fun sort of glasses.

Maybe it is worth another look.

With the public smoking bans recently put into effect and talk of extending them further, I understand people’s sensitivity to the mayor’s office using its power to officially judge our vices. I don’t like it any more than the next person. But I don’t really take issue with the outdoor advertising campaign that’s been taking over my commute which warns people against the ills of binge drinking and overeating. And I don’t think it’s fair to lump those efforts in with actual legally implemented limitations to add fuel to the “nanny state” argument.

There is a big difference between public education and personal interference. And while the latter is a legitimate cause for uproar, the former should be a welcome act of a local government’s responsibility to keep its population as healthy and informed as it can without going so far as to smack the lit cigarettes from our fingers.

The fact is, obesity is bad. It really does cause diabetes which leads to amputations and other terrible consequences. Excessive drinking can indeed land a person in the hospital, or worse. Smoking kills. Sugary soft drinks are terrible for all of us. We should all be allowed to make whatever choices we want when it comes to our health and nutrition, but it certainly can’t hurt to be reminded every now and then about the reality of that Big Mac.

If it makes some people think twice, great. If not, fine.

But when the argument against aggressive government oversight turns into an argument against public service announcements, I think we may have lost the point somewhere. It’s not Big Brother. It’s just a poster. Read it or don’t read it, just like you do with the one next to it about ordering a nice, big juicy taco off of Seamless Web. Oh ha ha. The irony is delicious.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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