March 12, 2013 was supposed to be the day Mayor Bloomberg took a step towards combatting obesity in New York. But one day before the portion cap on large sugary beverages became effective, the Supreme Court of New York prohibited the city’s health department from enforcing it. So New York City’s residents can continue to live in a city where they are free to purchase large quantities of sugary beverages harmful to their health. That’s capitalism and we must take the good with the bad.
Section 81.53 of the New York City Health Code, passed in September 2012, prohibits businesses subject to health inspections from selling sugary drinks over sixteen ounces. Sugary drinks are defined as non-alcoholic carbonated or non-carbonated beverages that have over 25 calories per 8 ounces. This neither prevents restaurants from offering free refills, nor customers from purchasing multiple sixteen-ounce drinks.
The mayor claimed, and the health department agreed, that sweet drinks directly link to obesity. Since obesity is a public health issue, capping portion sizes for each purchase served to address obesity in New York City. Additionally, the mayor hoped other cities will follow his lead.
One argument against the ban was that the City’s Council and state legislators had reviewed similar proposals and rejected them. As a government for the people by the people, their rejection established a presumption that their constituents did not want the ban. In response to that argument, Mayor Bloomberg stated, “People will quickly gloom on and will do it, and they’ll get used to it very quickly.”
Well he is once again learning that you can’t force (at least not without a fight) people to do what’s in their best interest, especially in a democratic government. People want the right to choose to be unhealthy, and they don’t care if businesses capitalize on their unhealthy weaknesses.