The Nanny State

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Sitting inside one of the more popular fast food restaurants in the city, a reader watched as a young girl danced to the music playing over the eatery’s sound system. The child was happy and full of life.

She was also morbidly obese. And so was her mother.

Until that point the reader was completely opposed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

Whether it was genetics, bad eating choices or both, the child appeared headed for a lifetime of obesity with all the limitations it brings. Suddenly, the mayor’s war on sugar did not appear so extreme, even to a person opposed to government erosion of personal liberty.

If approved by the city Department of Health, the restriction could go into effect as early as March 2013.

While we recognize the urgency of the situation and join the reader in feeling for this child, we have problems with the mayor’s approach.

First, it is an abuse of his executive power. The regulation — not a law which would require a vote by the City Council — takes advantage of the power given to the department.

Equally important, we doubt the regulation will do much good. In many of the fast food places, customers are free to refill their cups as long as they are drinking the soda inside the store. A 16-ounce cup refilled is 32 ounces, and refilled twice is 48 ounces.

Several years ago, the mayor attempted to deal with the problem by forcing eateries to post calorie counts on menus and wall displays. The counts are even posted on drive-thrus and advertisements and there isn’t much evidence that it’s working.

In defending the sugary drink ban, the mayor argued that “the increase in sugary drink consumption is the largest single cause of the rise in calories in the American diet in the last 40 years.”

The soda industry insists that isn’t true, but they are hardly objective.

Although he agreed with the mayor’s intentions, state Sen. Tony Avella said this was an example of a growing nanny state.

Councilman Dan Halloran said, “It isn’t the government’s job to tell people how much food or drink they are allowed to consume.”

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