Skip to main content

Big Gulp? Meet Big Brother

By Edward Morrissey, Special to CNN
updated 10:18 AM EDT, Sat June 2, 2012
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes limits on the size of sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants and elsewhere.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes limits on the size of sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants and elsewhere.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ed Morrissey: New York mayor's proposal to ban soda size servings is wrong
  • He says it makes no sense: What's to stop people from drinking too much soda?
  • He calls Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal a nanny-state rule
  • Morrissey: New rule would dictate mayor's choices and eliminate everyone else's

Editor's note: Edward Morrissey is a senior editor and correspondent for the conservative commentary website hotair.com

(CNN) -- America's image of New Yorkers combines swagger, style and an unwillingness to get pushed around. Humphrey Bogart once warned a Nazi commander in "Casablanca" that "there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade." Seventy years ago, movie audiences would have laughed in appreciation of the city's toughness.

Today, however, Rick Blaine would hardly recognize the place. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit the panic button over soft drinks this week, proposing a citywide ban on any serving of sugary-sweet soda more than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. Bloomberg claims that he needs to have the cops throw themselves between consumers and liquid refreshment to save citizens from themselves and prevent obesity. Big Gulp, meet Big Brother.

Overheard on CNN.com: Doughnut lovers' lament, washed down with a giant soda

This is just the latest intervention staged by Hizzoner. His past decrees banned smoking, not just indoors in places of business, but also outside of businesses and in parks. Bloomberg also banned restaurants from cooking with artificial trans fats. In those cases, he took a lot of criticism as being a health hysteric and a food nanny, but at least an argument existed that consumer choice might have been irrelevant. Restaurants don't usually advertise all of their ingredients on the menu, for instance, and few people get asked permission before someone lights a cigarette in the doorway of an establishment.

Soft drinks: Public enemy No. 1 in obesity fight?

Edward Morrissey
Edward Morrissey

In this case, though, no such argument exists. People purchase the volume of beverage they desire, and in almost every case, plenty of choice exists for smaller quantities. The outcome of barring the sale of anything larger than 16 ounces of Coca-Cola or Pepsi at the ballpark will be that more containers will get thrown out as people just buy more units, and that waste will have to be disposed of later. Consumers will pay more and have more inconvenience in purchasing what they want to drink, and will still end up drinking the same amount anyway.

Is drinking soda really that bad for you?

The new restrictions make little sense for most other venues. Fast-food restaurants have customer-accessible fountains in most cases for in-store dining. Few people buy the large size, and many of these restaurants no longer bother with size at all for those sales, sticking with one standard size. Will Bloomberg start regulating how many refills each customer gets, too? For that matter, many traditional restaurants offer free refills on soft drinks, too. If Bloomberg caps those, what happens when customers just buy another soft-drink order? Will the restaurant be forced to stop serving root beer far more quickly than they stop serving beer?

Michael Bloomberg has been mayor of New York since 2002. While he has implemented changes in all areas of life for New Yorkers, his policies concerning health have caused the most controversy. Here are some of his most memorable health proposals, not all of which were enacted: Michael Bloomberg has been mayor of New York since 2002. While he has implemented changes in all areas of life for New Yorkers, his policies concerning health have caused the most controversy. Here are some of his most memorable health proposals, not all of which were enacted:
Salt, sodas, smoking: Bloomberg's bans
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
Bloomberg\'s bans: Salt, sodas, smoking Bloomberg's bans: Salt, sodas, smoking
The war on big soda
Clinton: Soda ban 'right thing'
New York plans ban on large sodas

A soda per day may raise heart-attack risk

Nor do the drink categories make sense, either. Bloomberg's order won't apply to alcoholic beverages, even though many of those are loaded with calories, especially beers and ales, or to dairy-based drinks. As Reason's Jacob Sullum points out, that means that while New Yorkers will no longer be able to ingest 240 calories drinking a 20-ounce Coke, they will still have no trouble buying a 24-ounce, 520-calorie double-chocolatey frappucino at Starbucks, or a 20-ounce, 800-calorie milkshake.

Now, some of those choices may be better than others, although it's hard to argue that the dietary value of milk justifies ingesting an 800-calorie drink as opposed to the 240-calorie cola. But more to the point, that's a decision that free people should be able to make on their own. New Yorkers shouldn't have to ask Bloomberg, "Mayor, may I?" when selecting an otherwise-legal and nonlethal beverage.

Eatocracy: How I kicked my Coke habit

Bloomberg justifies his nanny-state interventions by pointing to the social costs of obesity, but there is no direct causal link between obesity and 20-ounce sodas with sugar in them, and neither would it be anyone's business at all except for the increasing government control and subsidies for health care. Bloomberg's insistence on dictating consumer choices has a more direct connection to an assumption that government should control our access to health care than obesity has to a couple of Big Gulps.

Perhaps it's time for New Yorkers to put their mayor on a power diet, and to wise up about the real trade-offs between expanding safety-net programs and personal choice. Soft drinks won't be the last of the usual suspects that Mayor May I will round up in his crusade to dictate his choices and eliminate everyone else's.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Morrissey.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT