Quotes of the day

posted at 10:41 pm on June 4, 2012 by Allahpundit

What do New Yorkers say? “Fuhgetaboutit.”…

An exclusive NY1-Marist College poll finds most New Yorkers are opposed to the mayor’s plan, as 53 percent say it is a a bad idea and only 42 percent say it is a good one.

Most New Yorkers, 52 percent, say they are not convinced it will work. Only 45 percent say they think a ban on large sodas and other sugary drinks will help people lose weight.

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Bold actions to protect the public’s health always stir controversy at first. Smoke-free bars and restaurants, trans fat restriction and calorie posting in restaurants were all met with skepticism, but are now widely popular in New York City. They are also saving many lives each year, and life expectancy in New York City is outpacing that of the United States…

[S]tudies show that people given larger portions simply consume more without noticing it or reducing calorie consumption at subsequent meals. And portion sizes of sugary drinks have ballooned drastically over the last 50 years, from 12 ounces to 32 ounces for a large beverage at a typical fast-food restaurant, not as a result of consumer demand but because of corporate decisions…

Under our proposal, people could still choose to drink as much soda as they want. If 16 ounces (promoted as enough for three people in the 1950s!) is not enough, people could purchase two portions. Is that too much an inconvenience to reverse a national health catastrophe?

***

Under the spirit of the proposed Bloomberg ban, a super-strength beer would be considered less of public nuisance than the sports drink or the soda. At present, there is no suggestion that the ban will apply at all to alcoholic beverages.

While the language of the ban has yet to be formalized, other things that are not alcoholic but are also expected to be passed over include the 870-calorie, 22-ounce chocolate McCafe milkshakes at McDonald’s and the 670-calorie, 24-ounce Venti Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Crème at Starbucks.

***

[P]ublic health advocates contend that letting everyone make their own choices has led the country to $192 billion per year in medical bills for obesity-related care. That’s a tab everyone ends up paying part of via Medicare, Medicaid and soaring rates for private health insurance.

There is nobody on the face of the planet who needs a soda, let alone a 32-ounce soda,” said Robert Lustig, a pediatric obesity researcher at the University of California at San Francisco who is a vocal proponent of restrictions on sugary drinks…

“If New York City’s initiative succeeds, it really opens up a new front,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “I’m sure it will encourage other cities and states to seek similar measures to reduce portion sizes.”

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When I was a kid, Coca-Cola came in 6-ounce glass bottles, and that seemed like plenty. It wasn’t all that long ago that a 12-ounce soda was considered perfectly sufficient—even large. But walk into any pizzeria or deli these days and you’ll have a very hard time even finding 12-ounce cans of anything. 20-ounce plastic bottles are now considered the standard single-serving size. The same thing has happened with hot drinks. Remember the Starbucks 8-ounce “short” cup of coffee? That’s not on the menu anymore. If you walk in and ask for a small, you get a 12-ounce “tall.” Small is tall.

The reason for all this supersizing is basic economics. When you go to a McDonalds or Wendy’s, the cost of serving you is pretty much fixed because what they have to spend on the food is almost negligible compared to what they pay for their workers and floor space. However, if they can get you to pay, say, 25 cents more for 5 cents worth of soda, the franchise owner earns a tidy profit and you walk out the door thinking you’ve gotten an absolutely fantastic deal by paying only a few extra pennies for a drink that’s as big as your head…

The ban on large drinks, on the other hand, could reset our notion of what a normal beverage serving looks like, and that could make all the difference.

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I believe America is in a crisis now, not only of corporate or governmental social responsibility, but of personal social responsibility; we’re uncertain of whether Wall Street or Uncle Sam has our best interest at heart, but just the same we should be looking at our neighbor. Our problem is not simply a matter of sugar, fat and salt; it is a matter of choice, behavior and education. We live in a country where we make sure our children are mathematically educated enough to figure out that two 16-ounce sodas will get them their Big Gulp fix, but where roughly 96 percent of them are not required to have daily physical education classes in school. What exactly are we teaching them about behavior and choice?…

Type 2 diabetes, in which insidious sugar sources like soda play a big role, costs this country in excess of $174 billion each year. Most Type 2 diabetics know that their lifestyles are unhealthy but do not take adequate action to prevent or reverse the disease. And who pays for it? How would we react to a corporation that did the very same? (Note: This is NOT an attack on diabetics; I am merely illustrating a point.)

And my point is simply this: Drinking soda, or better stated, our right to drink soda, is actually good for us. Isn’t that what makes America great? We’re the land of free choice. However, when government takes an arbitrary legislative potshot at the symptom, not the cause, of a problem, how much better off are we? Do we want to be hobbled by government making lifestyle choices for us, or empowered by government teaching and supporting better choices? I for one would much rather see legislation making daily physical education and nutrition classes mandatory for our students, ingraining better lifestyles and choices. And I’d love to see the Big Gulp yanked — not due to legislation, but due rather to poor sales from a healthy, educated consumer.

***

Sugary drinks now provide 7% of the calories in the American diet, the largest single national source of calories. Teen boys average more than a quart of sugary soda per day. Even adults who say they are trying to lose weight still drink more two 12-ounces cans per day, on average…

Some object that the mayor’s proposal to restrict serving sizes will restrict liberty. But the liberty restricted is not the liberty of the soda-drinker. If they wish, soda drinkers can buy a 2-liter bottle of soda at the grocery for about $1.70 and pour as much of it down their throats as they wish. The liberty that is being restricted is the liberty of the soda seller to manipulate known human weaknesses to the seller’s advantage and the buyer’s detriment.

Human beings are not reasoning machines. We are animals who have inherited certain propensities not always well-adapted to modern urban life. We evolved in conditions of food scarcity. Our bodies have adapted to store food energy against famine; our subrational minds crave sweetness. The sugary beverage industry has invested massively to understand better how to use our very human natures against us.

***

Are we not capable stewards of our own welfare? In general, yes, but the government has taxed cigarettes to high heaven, as a means (successful) of steering us away from them, and made it illegal to partake of many recreational drugs. Like those substances, heavily sugared soft drinks are wholly unnecessary and are implicated in health problems that wind up affecting all of us, not just the individual suffering from them. Food ceased to be a frontier too far when the fraction of American adults who qualify as obese climbed above one in three.

We’re fat, folks. Seriously, dangerously fat. And you don’t need statistics to tell you that; you just need to look around. All three people ahead of me in line in a food shop in Des Moines last month qualified as morbidly obese; they had 900 pounds — easy — among them. One of every two people in line with me at a Coney Island concession stand last weekend were carrying at least 25 extra pounds. When this many people are this overweight, you have not only an epidemic. You have a new normal, a context in which each obese person is less likely to recognize and appreciate the magnitude of his or her health problem because it’s entirely unexceptional…

Is Bloomberg putting us on a slippery slope? Maybe. But we have a long way to slide before there’s a cause for alarm commensurate with the urgency of the problem he’s trying to whittle away at. And the government routinely meddles in the markets and our lives when private behavior has severe public consequences. We reached that larded intersection scores of Big Gulps and dozens of pounds ago.

***

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 65% of American Adults oppose a law that would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces. Just 24% favor a law like the one Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed as a way to fight obesity. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided about it.

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Via the Corner.


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