Nanny state charging ahead

A terrifying op ed in the NY Daily News by a Marion Nestle:

Barring any late legal surprises, Mayor Bloomberg’s 16-ounce cap on sugary sodas goes into effect on Tuesday, March 12. After that, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and food carts will not be permitted to sell extra-large portions of sugar-packed drinks.

Stay calm. This does not signal the end of democracy in America. This is not the gone out of control.

Actually is is the precise definition of nanny state out of control.

If we want Americans to be healthy, we are going to have to take actions like this – and many more – and do so soon. It’s long past time to tax sugar soda, crack down further on what gets sold in our schools, tackle abusive marketing practices, demand a redesign of labels – and extend the soda cap, no matter how controversial it may seem. This must be the beginning, not the end, of efforts toward a healthier America.

Be scared, be very scared

I’m amazed she doesn’t just advocate making soda drinks illegal.

The soda size cap is a nudge in that direction. You will still be able to drink all the soda, and down all the sugar, that you want. The cap on soda size makes it just a tiny bit harder for you to do so.

That “tiny bit harder” is its point. If you have to order two sodas instead of one, maybe you won’t. If you have to add sugar to your coffee drink yourself, maybe you will only add one or two teaspoons instead of the 10 or more someone else put in there for you.

Oh, so she also wants it to be illegal to sell coffee with sugar in it?

So-called “nanny-state” measures – like bans on driving while drunk, smoking in public places and, now, selling absurdly large sugary drinks – help to level the playing field. Such measures are about giving everyone an equal opportunity to live a safer and healthier life.

Again, she can’t see any difference between measures about preventing harm to others (killing people while drink driving, passive smoking effects) and measures to control how people live their own lives.

Fix the price differential. A 7.5-ounce can of soda costs twice as much per ounce as a two-liter bottle, and you can’t buy just one; it comes in an 8-pack. Price determines sales. If a 16-ounce soda costs a dollar, a 32-ounce soda should cost two dollars.

They should also abolish large chocolate bars being not the same price per kg as small chocolate bars. In fact let’s just regulate all food pricing. No volume discounts for any food except broccoli.

Actions like these will evoke ferocious opposition from the soda industry, and it will spare no expense to make sure such things never happen. We would surely hear more and more howls of “nanny-state” from those who insist Bloomberg has led us to the brink of a public health police state. Polls say that many New Yorkers oppose the 16-ounce cap and would oppose measures like this, too.

But I can’t tell whether the opposition comes from genuine concern about limits on personal choice or because soda companies have spent millions of dollars to protect their interests and gin up histrionic, misinformed opposition.

That’s easy. Its is genuine concern about personal choice – something that the author seems to regard as having no weight at all.

Hat Tip: Eric Crampton

UPDATE: Great news. A Judge has invalidated the ban on large soda drinks. The NY Post reports:

“[The city] is enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling ruled.

The judge said Bloomberg and the Board of Health overstepped their bounds, to enforce rules that should be established by the legislative bodies.

“The rule would not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it,” Tingling wrote. “Such an evisceration has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened drinks.”

“It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on suspect grounds, and the loopholes inherent in the rule, including but not limited to no limitations on refills, defeat and/or serve to gut the purpose of the rule,” Tingling wrote.

The regulations are “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences,” the judge wrote.

A defeat for the nanny statists. But they will try again and again.

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