Soda Ban: Strategy Going Forward

Today is the scheduled hearing on the mayor’s ban on large sized sodas-and Hizzoner has all the kangaroos lined up for the expected rubber stamp of the idea. As the NY Post reports:

“One of New York City’s most ambitious efforts to prod residents to live healthier appears poised to pass as a health panel takes up a plan to cut down sales of big sodas and other sugary soft drinks.

The Board of Health was set to vote Thursday on the proposal, which would bar sales of sugar-heavy drinks in more than 16-ounce cups or bottles in restaurants, movie theaters and some other settings.

The plan was expected to pass what could be a final vote, but it may not be the final word on a proposal that has drawn intense public interest. The Health Department has received more than 38,000 oral and written comments about the cola crackdown, proposed less than four months ago.”

As the NY Times points out, however, this certainly isn’t the final word on the subject because the soda industry is gearing up for a longer fight-buoyed by the fact that six in ten New Yorkers think that the ban is dumb:

“Fearful that stricter limits on soda sales in New York City could incite a national trend — and a long-term erosion of profits — the nation’s sweetened-beverage companies plan to continue campaigning against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s restrictions on large sodas, even after the plan’s expected approval on Thursday by the Board of Health.

Officials in the soft-drink industry, while conceding they cannot win the vote by the mayor-appointed board, say they will do whatever is necessary to stop the plan before it can be put in effect in March, including a possible legal challenge and continuing discussions with lawmakers.”

As the Times goes on to point out: “Mayor Bloomberg will not be mayor forever,” said Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, the industry-sponsored group that has spent more than $1 million on a public-relations campaign against the mayor’s plan, which would limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces in the city’s restaurants, movie theaters and other venues. “It’s important for us to have our voices heard for the next administration.”

Put simply, the mayor is on the way out and the industry is looking to craft a political/lega strategy so that this particular misguided effort doesn’t metastasize here and all over the country-as the Post reports:

“A soft-drink industry sponsored group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices — which says it has gathered more than 250,000 signatures on petitions opposing the soda plan — is considering a lawsuit and exploring legislative options for challenging the plan if it passes, spokesman Eliot Hoff said.”

The speaker, as usual, was trying to have it both ways-underscoring that the industry and its allies in the food service and retail sector should not be placing bets on Christine Quinn as a potential loyal ally: “It’s not clear what legislative routes there may be: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Wednesday she’s not interested in trying to block the expected health board vote, though she has said she isn’t a fan of the soda idea.”

Still, there are legal avenues that can be pursued according to the Times:

“Soft-drink officials would not comment on a potential lawsuit, but Robert Bookman, a lawyer who often represents New York City restaurants and who has been contacted by soft-drink industry officials to discuss legal options, said that industry lawyers might argue that regulating container sizes was an improper or overreaching use of the Board of Health’s powers. Another line of attack could focus on whether New York City, as a municipality, has the authority to place restrictions on sales of soft drinks, which could be interpreted as a form of interstate commerce, Mr. Bookman said.”

The soda forces have been successful at mounting the public relations campaign that has gotten the public to respond so negatively to the ban, but by itself that isn’t sufficient if those of us who are opposed to this level of government meddling are going to be able to push back.

Think about it, Dr. Farley who is running this health scam has called all New Yorkers his “patients.” As the Center for Consumer Freedom points out:

“A few weeks ago we pointed out the conceit of New York City health commissioner Thomas Farley, who called every single New Yorker “my patient.” The implications are even scarier when you realize that the good doctor isn’t even an elected official, but an appointed one. But with New Yorkers rejecting Farley’s latest prescription to fight obesity, a ban on large soda, who wins the battle between the self-important state and public opinion?”

What this means is that we have public officials who don’t believe in the liberty and autonomy of those they are either elected or appointed to serve-and it’s up to them to deliver the right medicine for their own good. This is all very Platonic. Plato pointed out that just like you need a good shoe maker to make a good pair of shoes, so you need experts to run the ship of state. Aristotle’s response was to point out that, while folks don’t know how to make shoes, they know if the shoes fit. The people need to be free to decide what’s good for themselves.

What we are increasingly facing is a government run by those who think we are all infants in need of swaddling-and the soda ban is just one part of a larger campaign to regulate all behavior related to health. The decisions will be placed in the hands of others, but you can at least feel better knowing that it’s all for your own good.

That brings us to what we need to do going forward. The soda ban is just the beginning and, while the advertising campaign has been effective, the soda and food industries need to come together with a collaborative grass roots lobbying effort that brings community-based organizations, schools and store owners into a united coalition that addresses the politics and the public relations of what the Nannies are trying to do to us all: turn citizens into children under their direction and guidance.

 

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