What happens in the Big Apple doesn’t always drift to Utah (although the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” is coming to Denver!). But as the director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest noted, “the ban will have an impact on obesity and reduce health care costs. I’m sure every other health commissioner in the country is looking at this, and I expect to see more proposals.”
I have no dog in the hunt. I rarely sip a soft drink. A can of Coke in my refrigerator is more like food storage in your basement. And though I recognize that waistlines are expanding and 82 ounce Maverik mug-holders are optional in all new cars sold in Utah, I can’t support government sticking its nose under the beverage tent.
Banning smoking in Utah restaurants revolved around second-hand smoke. With soft drinks, there is no second-hand carbonation harming non-sippers. The New York proposal also only nibbles at part of the problem. It limits soft drink size to 16 ounces only in restaurants, sports venues, and movie theaters; at grocery stores and convenience stores, customers can buy any size they want.
Even more troubling is the message it sends. What’s next?
Should government mandate that all businesses have treadmills in the break room and offer health insurance discounts to employees who purchase SlimFast?
Should tax payers be able to write off gym membership dues from their taxes?
Should government ban the construction of drive-up windows?
Should fast-food restaurants be forced to advertise salmon as often as they do burgers?
Should warning labels be posted on the windows of each Krispy Kreme store?
Should we only see cheese at regulated state-owned stores?
The mayor of New York City is the Don Quixote of personal health habits. He has already banned smoking in public places, outlawed trans-fat in restaurants and mandated that chain stores post calorie counts and other nutritional information on their menus.
He’s also tried to get restaurants to reduce their use of salt and supported a state tax on all soda pop.
Pardon me, Mr. Mayor, but your battle is already being won. Soda pop sales have been relatively flat for years, and soda pop sales at restaurants have seen a steep decline. Restaurant owners are seeing a large percentage of customers requesting tap water, and Coke and Pepsi have both bought into the bottled water business.
This trend might be lost on the 36 percent of U.S. adults which the government labels obese, but this segment of the population will sniff out sugar and calories in other items despite the size limit on soda pop.
You can’t easily force people to be healthy. Government’s role should be educational, not slapping the hands of those who thirst for a Mountain Dew.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the ownership or management of this newspaper.