On Tuesday, July 24, 2012, New York City’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene will hold a public hearing about Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces.

As Reason points out, this involves not only full-calorie sodas but even iced tea sweetened with honey.

A poll taken on June 4 shows that most people are opposed to yet another Bloomberg ban (emphases mine):

Rasmussen found 65 of Americans oppose a law that would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces; 24 percent favor such a law. When asked about the constitutional authority to enact such a law, 9 percent think Bloomberg does have the authority to prevent people from buying sugary drinks, while 85 percent disagree. Virtually all major demographic groups Rasmussen identified oppose the sugary-drinks ban in equal proportion.

The widest divergence comes in the political identification of those polled, giving more evidence to my hypothesis that leftists like bans:

Forty-one percent of Democrats favor a ban and 45 percent oppose, in contrast 11 percent of Republicans favor and 80 percent oppose.

You can read a list of the questions here. They are straightforward.

Baylen Linnekin, writing for Reason, reviews the ban and reminds us of previous Bloomberg interventions:

I’ll be speaking in opposition to the ban at the hearing—on behalf of the members and supporters of the nonprofit I lead, Keep Food Legal—for two main reasons. First, the ban would restrict food freedom of choice. In this way it’s no different than several other New York City food-related bans dreamt up by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration that I noted in an earlier Reason column on the soda ban. A partial list of these bans includes a proposal to restrict new tavern licenses, a suggested ban on happy hours, a ban on food donations to homeless shelters, an attempt to limit restaurants’ use of salt, and a trans fat ban.

As with Tobacco Control efforts over the past few decades, Linnekin notes that the Food Control science is spurious:

The second reason the ban is a bad idea is that it rests on bad assumptions. It’s this latter argument that particularly interests me here.

For one, the justification for the proposed rule appears to rest largely on a claim that Americans are obese because we “consume 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks.” But nothing in the one citation on which that claim is based, a 2005 article in the Annual Review of Public Health, directly supports this bold claim.

Rather, the authors of that study looked at the results of five earlier studies that showed “caloric intake rose by roughly 12% (300 calories per day) between 1985 and 2000, mainly because of increased consumption of grains, added fats, and added sugars.”

The closest the researchers get to validating the basis of the New York City health department’s proposed rule is when they note an “increased consumption of carbohydrates” in the form of “fruit and soft drinks, [which] are also responsible for a surprising number of calories.” But the authors then immediately cite other research that pegs “increased snacking” (with no mention of soda) as the main factor behind increased caloric intake. What’s more, the ARPH authors conclude that neither soda nor sugar nor carbohydrates but “technology may be primarily responsible for the obesity epidemic” …

“From 1999 to 2010, full-calorie soda sales declined 12.5% while obesity rates went up,” notes New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group that opposes the ban. “According to the CDC, added sugars consumed from sugar sweetened beverages are down 39% thanks in part to more low- and zero-calorie choices.”

Just as galling as spurious conclusions, however, are the sanctimonious comments from our notional betters in the matter of health and the proposed large soda ban.

Note the similarity to reasoning and rhetoric which has been used over the years against tobacco and civil liberties:

- Rowan University Prof. Lawrence Weisberg, MD: ‘The trivial issues of personal freedom in this case pale before the public health and welfare exigency.’

- Spike Lee, filmmaker: ‘I’m in favor of [the soda ban] … Children today in public schools across the country are not being taught art, are not being taught music and they have no physical ed. Obesity is a major, major problem in this country. Americans-we’re just obese. It’s crazy.’

- Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation: ‘Soda isn’t food.  It has no nutritional value.  And soda consumption has been strongly linked to obesity and diabetes.  New York City has every right to reduce the harm and the health care costs being imposed by irresponsible corporate behavior.  The mayor’s proposal won’t prevent anyone from buying sugary drinks.’

- Jamie Oliver, English chef and restaurateur: ‘We hear a lot about how we shouldn’t be ‘nannying’ people with laws about how they live their lives, but with such a massive problem as the obesity epidemic to deal with, we are way past the point where can trust people to make better choices. We have to help them make better choices. Good for Mayor Mike for putting the health of his city’s people first and holding firm against the expected pressure from the food and soda industries.’

- Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn: ‘We have an obesity epidemic in this country and need bold and innovative actions to address this crisis.’

- Dodi Meyer, MD, Columbia University Medical Center: ‘I have seen firsthand the effects that obesity has had on NYC’s children … My patients are suffering now from breathing problems during sleep time, some have joint diseases and other are suffering from severe psychiatric issues due to the stigmatization that goes on in school settings. We as a society are responsible to offer children the best future that they can possibly have. It is the first time in history that the next generation is in danger of having a lower life expectancy that the previous one because of the health effects of the current obesity epidemic. Curtailing the sale of supersize sugary drinks can have a huge impact on the health of our children and therefore allow them to live to their maximum potential.’

There are plenty more quotes at the site. They really are right out of the smoking ban playbook.

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