A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
By Nina Pajak
After meeting with defeat in his attempts to enact a soda tax and restrict the use of food stamps to buy soft drinks, Mayor Bloomberg is back to battling obesity one oversize sugary beverage at a time. And this time, it sounds like he may finally get what he’s after.
Bloomberg is proposing a ban on the sale of soft drinks and other sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces in restaurants (fast food and otherwise), movie theaters, stadiums, delis and food carts. Supermarkets, newsstands and convenience stores would be exempt from the law, and diet sodas, juices, milkshakes and alcohol are still fair game to be consumed in grotesque quantities.
I, for one, would be more than happy to trade in a 64-oz Coke for a 64-oz margarita! Vamos, amigos!
Since the measure only needs to get past the Board of Health, and the Board of Health is populated by people whom Bloomberg appointed, it appears to stand a good chance of seeing reality.
While I can’t take exception to the cause behind this idea—massive jugs of sugary drinks contribute to the city and the country’s increasingly terrifying obesity problem—I don’t know how the mayor can possibly still think that the people of New York enjoy having their freedom of choice taken from them “for their own good.”
How many unpopular propositions can one politician shove down the throats of his constituents before he gets the picture? It’s not productive, and it isn’t even particularly effective despite its despotic nature.
Sure, maybe this law will cut down on some people drinking fewer empty calories in a sitting in certain circumstances. But the narrow scope of the policy still leaves plenty of room for determined fatties and those who lack nutritional education to continue destroying their bodies. So you can’t get a bucket of root beer at the movies. You can still wolf down a tub of popcorn drenched in butter, or some of those repulsive(ly delicious) squeeze-cheez nachos. I can still get my hands on a boot full of beer. The list of detrimental foods sold in dangerous quantities in this country is endless, and even so-called “Nanny Bloomberg” can’t put a dent in it.
Perhaps the law forcing restaurant chains to post calorie contents in menu items didn’t deter as many people as they would have hoped from eating Super McLardface Cheesy Bacon Breakfast Bombs. But I am still in strong favor of brandishing nutritional values loud and clear in the name of helping people to make more educated decisions. That should certainly apply to all beverages, too. But more than that, why can’t the city institutionalize free water at these same venues that hawk enormous drinks? You can’t expect the average person to spend $5 on a 12 oz. bottle of water when they can get triple that amount of soda for the same price or less. And what’s so great about drinking 32 oz of diet soda instead of the sugary kind? I’m pretty sure both will kill us in the end, though perhaps by different routes. But if stadiums and movie theaters and fast food restaurants had strategically placed coolers of filtered tap water available, maybe some thirsty patrons would be encouraged to make a healthier choice.
And no, water fountains do not really achieve the same purpose, because if they even exist, they’re sort of gross and are usually placed in or just beyond the toilets, which smell. I mean these places should actually make water both free and appealing.
Of course, no one would make money off of that idea. How dumb of me.
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Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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