“People are dying every day. This is not a joke. This is about real lives.” That was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday.
No, the mayor wasn’t expressing concern about New Yorkers “dying every day” from gun violence.
The mayor was decrying a state judge’s ruling blocking his order to impose a 16-ounce limit on the sale of sugary drinks in restaurants, theaters and food carts within city limits.
Justice Milton A. Tingling struck down the beverage cap (pun intended) before it could take effect as scheduled on Tuesday. The judge called the mayor’s edict “arbitrary and capricious,” citing assorted exemptions that would create “uneven enforcement, even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.”
The judge also stressed that because only the city’s Board of Health had approved the executive order, it lacked the legislative approval warranted for such a sweeping change.
Hmm. That seems to mean that a soda-size limit with City Council’s approval would also gain the court’s approval.
So don’t assume that this ruling forever assures a right to buy or sell a sugar-packed soda of any size you choose in New York City — or anywhere else.
And don’t forget that Mayor Bloomberg was a trailblazer in what became a successful push to ban public-place smoking throughout the nation. Among the Lowcountry municipalities that have enacted such prohibitions of their own: Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Summerville.
Crucial distinction: Workers in restaurants and bars where patrons light up cigarettes and cigars are exposed to secondhand smoke. Workers in restaurants and bars where patrons gulp down giant sodas are not exposed to secondhand sugar.
Still, Mayor Bloomberg made this characteristically dire case for why the city will appeal Monday’s decision: “I’ve got to defend my children, and yours, and do what’s right to save lives. Obesity kills. There’s no question it kills.”
Yes, obesity kills. Yes, the consumption of sugary drinks in large quantities contributes to rising obesity rates, which contribute to rising heart disease, diabetes and other serious ailments, which contribute to rising medical costs.
But if Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade against jumbo sodas advances, what’s next in the Nanny State’s zeal to protect us from ourselves? A behemoth burger ban?
At least there was some comic relief in these exemptions from the more-than-16-ounce drinks that the mayor wanted to declare verboten: diet soda, unsweetened tea and milkshakes.
And at least Mayor Bloomberg offered this limited concession last week on a New York radio show:
“Exercise is great for you, but how do you convince people to do it? And should you force them to do it? Probably not.”