Judge drinks Bloomberg's milkshake, rules giant soda ban illegal

Today was supposed to be the day a proposed ban on large servings - more than 16 oz. - of sugary soft drinks went into effect in New York City. To the delight of soda drinkers, a judge has ruled the ban illegal, calling it "arbitrary and capricious."

Since sugar delivery methods is an issue people care deeply about, I ventured into the Internet, where people reportedly have opinions. Here are some of my findings.

First up, Andrew Sullivan rounds up a video of Bloomberg's response (above) and reactions on the paternalism aspect debate.

I think David Frum's post, How Should We Feel About Bloomberg's Soda Restriction Being Tossed Out?, raises an important question:

The serving ban obviously had problems. It represented an experiment that might or might not have achieved results. But if incremental - sorry, "arbitrary and capricious" - steps are not permissible, what is? Or is the plan that government can do nothing about the obesity problem except continue to defray through Medicare and Medicaid the large and rising costs of the super-sizing of the American population?

That point about incrementalism is an important one. On health or climate or any other complex issue, there will never be a single solution, so battles over minor, even symbolic steps, without proposing better alternatives won't get us any closer to solutions.

Robin Shreeves at our sister site, Mother Nature Network notes that even within a green site, there were differing opinions about the policy:

Even here at MNN the soda ban caused (friendly) differences of opinion. Our lifestyle blogger Starre thought the soda ban was a good idea and that it would help curb obesity. Our family blogger Jenn thought the soda ban was well-intentioned but over-reaching.

Writing at WonkBlog, Sarah Kliff compares the soda ban to calorie label legislation that Bloomberg eventually passed after a court challenge:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a man of many public health pursuits — and this isn’t the first time one of them has been held up in legal action. In 2006, a city regulation that required all chain restaurants to post calorie labels quickly came under fire.

As it was initially written, the calorie labeling law only required restaurants to post the nutritional information if they had already made it available to the public, usually on a Web site. The New York State Restaurant Association challenged that law as, in a way, arbitrary: It didn’t treat all restaurants the same.

The solution to the narrow scope of the calorie law was to broaden it to affect all chain restaurants. Kliff concludes that will be the likely solution the Mayor's office will use to advance the soda ban, as well.

Earlier this week, The New York Times had a piece on how restaurants and shop keepers were preparing. It is filled with unintentionally hilarious/sad quotes about how much soda people were going to drink:

JoAnn Mikulak, a waitress at the Manhattan Three Decker diner in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, said she intended to thoroughly enjoy the last few days of big soda before rules forbidding the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces begin Tuesday.

“I’m going to drink as many 20-ounce sodas as I can,” just to irritate Mr. Bloomberg, she said.

Yeah, you show 'em, JoAnn!

In what should be a headline from The Onion, but is in fact a real thing, Mississippi lawmakers voted on "The Anti-Bloomberg Bill" that bans any food regulations aimed at improving health. Think Progress explains:

Mississippi — where about one in three adults is at least 30 pounds heavier than a healthy weight — isn’t on board with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to combat obesity rates by regulating large sugary drinks. In fact, lawmakers in Mississippi want to be absolutely certain their own local officials won’t implement the same kind of public health initiatives. A bill awaiting Gov. Phil Bryant’s (R) signature would prevent any Mississippi county from taking steps to address the obesity epidemic by regulating the food and beverage industries

Melissa Breyer at MNN points out the hypocrisy of "free market conservatives" passing legislation that prevents the market from making informed decisions:

(Of course, it helps when the “marketplace” is not always aware of the nutritional value of food, and consumers are so easily seduced by tubs of fast food and attractive toys, the lure of which infects children with incessant whining that can only be cured with junk food and high fructose corn syrup.)

It’s a surprising move in a state where the ability to self-govern is a highly regarded ideal.

Meanwhile, Think Progress reminds us about the scientific-reasoning behind a restriction on soda serving sizes:

As an increasing body of research has tied the consumption of sugary drinks to obesity, public efforts like Bloomberg’s represent one small step toward reorienting a culture where portion sizes have continued to spiral out of control. Restaurants’ portion sizes are more than four times larger now than they were in the 1950s — and that culture of excess is making its way into Americans’ homes, too, where meals are also getting bigger. Soft drinks sizes specifically have seen one of the largest increases, ballooning by over 50 percent since the mid-1970s. And research suggests that larger portion sizes do lead people to consume more than they would have otherwise, since we tend to estimate calories with our eyes rather than our stomachs.

I guess instead of worrying about science, in Mississippi Bloomberg will only take away their Big Gulps when he prys them from their cold, fat fingers.

Lastly, in typical fashion (read: fun and awesome) Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing reminds us to pause and appreciate the Judge's awesome name: Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling

The response statement from Bloomberg is a good one, so watch the video above. In it, he explains why he pursued the policy and why he will appeal this ruling and continue to push for it.

What do you think of the soda size ban? Yay? Nay? Meh? Let us know in the comments, but do it nicely.

Tags: Health | Health Care | New York City

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