So Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on another mission, and I must say that my first instinct was to say, “There he goes again!”
The man who banned cigarettes and trans fats is now going for your Big Gulp, looking to ban the sale of sugary sodas.
But just when you thought it was easy to laugh off the mayor’s initiative, listen carefully to what he has to say.
I interviewed the mayor, who told me that despite his critics, he’s not having any second thoughts.
“No, if anything this is great because this points out the fact that obesity is going to start killing more people in this country than smoking,” the mayor said. “This is the single biggest public health issue that is growing and we have to do something.”
Obviously, few would argue with that. Just look around and you see obesity is getting out of control. Just look at the numbers and you see we are headed for a health-care meltdown.
“When airlines have a problem that most of their passengers can’t fit in the seats anymore, when the statistics say 30-40-50 percent of our kids are obese, they’re going to be obese as adults,” the mayor told me. “They are not going to live long, and they’re not going to have great lives. We have to do something and this is just one small thing.”
Diabetes and its related illnesses are already taking a serious toll.
“We have six year olds that look like they are 19 year olds; when you look at diabetes, we have 19 year olds that look like 60 year olds. That’s becoming pervasive all over the country.”
The mayor is clearly emboldened by his previous successes. “Remember smoking? Today, show me which restaurants you can smoke in,” he challenged. “And show me who would roll back the smoking ban. Nobody.”
Yes, it worked with the smoking ban. But that’s because many non-smokers supported it. And why take away a basic right — to drink as much sugary soda as you want?
“It doesn’t take away anybody’s rights to anything,” the mayor told me. “All it says is the restaurant has to serve you two glasses if you want more than 16 ounces. I don’t know why that takes away anybody’s rights. It encourages you to drink less. That’s a good thing and if you want to drink more, go ahead and do it.”
What about the slippery, uh, I mean greasy, slope that burgers will be next?
“Keep in mind that soda is different than other foods, because soda’s empty calories, so if you drink a big glass of soda it won’t fill you up. If you ate a hamburger it does fill you up and you won’t eat more.”
I asked the mayor whether he was surprised by the resistance to his plan.
“No no, I don’t think it’s resistance. This is cute for the cameras. It’s a great thing to say, ‘Ahh, I don’t like that,’ but people understand that we have to do something and if you’ve got any better ideas we’d love to have them.”