Banning the bubbles

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So the soda ban has been banned. Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative has, for now, fizzled out, and most of New York is celebrating.

Instinctively, people don’t want to be told what to do, especially when it comes to food. But there are two sides to this case.

The judge in this case, Milton Tingling of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, called the limits set forth by the mayor “arbitrary and capricious.” While restaurants and movie theaters would have to enforce it, 7-Elevens wouldn’t. They are regulated by the state.

“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeated the stated purpose of the law,” said the judge. “It applies to some sweetened drinks and exempts some others.”

All of these arguments make sense, but still don’t address the issue that upsets people: the government should not tell them what size soda they can drink.

Last year, I asked Bloomberg about the unpopularity of the soda ban.

“Find one person now who criticizes the smoking ban,” he said.

Fair point. I’m not a smoker, but I felt the smoking-ban law would never last, and never get popular support. Clearly that law empowered Bloomberg. But even still, fewer people smoke than drink soda, and it’s much easier to trace the dangerous effects of tobacco.

Bloomberg would disagree. “People are dying every day.  This is not a joke,” he said.

Obesity is no joke, and portion size may indeed be to blame. Go to any restaurant, and see how a plate of food gets bigger and bigger. Compare the size of a bag of chips from, say, 30 years ago, to now. If you look at statistics, obesity began surging sometime in the mid-1990s, and continues to worsen.

The question: Can the government legislate healthy living?  All signs seem to indicate it cannot. We have calorie counting in restaurants and on cartons. We have “low-fat” and “light” everything offered in stores. Schools can’t serve soda, cookies, or even have a bake sale. Exercise is encouraged on almost every front.

Indeed, we have the most prominent mayor in the nation leading a very public war against fat. But regardless, despite all of these changes, we are still fatter than ever.

Many experts believe obesity is a parenting problem, and that it is passed down by moms and dads who have transferred their junk-food habits to their kids.

Bloomberg is right to say that obesity does become a governing problem, since it will be government that pays the medical bills of all the people who will get sick sooner.

So enjoy your soda. But 16 ounces is probably enough.