Seeking to reduce runaway obesity rates, the New York City Board of Health on Thursday approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters, the first restriction of its kind in the country.As I argued in a previous installment, once something is illegal somewhere, it is only a matter of time before it is illegal elsewhere. New York City's ban on soda is, therefore, merely the first instance of what will soon become a widespread phenomenon.
There has been a huge public relations effort up to this point. We have been talking about it for a very long time. There have been scholarly journal articles arguing for the ban, doctors' associations arguing for the ban, politicians arguing for the ban.
From every angle, the discussion has always centered around the following argument: (a) The US is experiencing an "obesity epidemic" and a "diabetes epidemic," (b) All other things being equal, drinking large amounts of soda increases one's risk for obesity and diabetes, (c) Therefore, soda should be banned.
Well, what's to be argued with? That soda - especially in large quantities - is unhealthy is an objective fact. That there are rising rates of obesity and diabetes prevalence in the United States is simply and plainly true. On these things, there can be no dispute.
Opponents of the ban have always argued that a ban on soda is the epitome of the Nanny State. It used to be a joke, you know. People used to say things like, "What's next, a ban on soda?" The belief had been, until recently, that people should be persuaded not to do stupid, unhealthy things, rather than forced to conform to medical standards. The broader context here, though, is that we Americans are progressively becoming total wards of the state, and that means that if we engage in activities that cost the state money, the state will get angry at us and force us to stop.
Who is the state? Who is the government? There seems to be a vague impression that "we all are," but specifically who do we mean? Whose idea is it to force us to conform to a soda quota, and how did that person gain greater access to the corridors of power than the rest of us, who are more than happy to leave each other alone?
More importantly, if we really are a society that believes in the principle of "my body, my decision" then how is a ban like this even remotely tenable?
The answers to questions like these are irrelevant. In a short while, no one will remember what it was like to have the ability to purchase large quantities of the controlled substance known as soda pop. Coffee shops will experience a huge windfall as people spend their dollars on substitute goods that come in smaller sizes, and in time we will become a more coffee-oriented society than a softdrink-oriented society. The next generation will not know about Big Gulps. All will be forgotten.
Well, almost all. I will still remember, and I will have made note of how things used to be, right here on my blog.