Uh oh: New York City Council president breaks with Bloomberg over "punitive" soda ban

Yes, this is a big deal. The City Council can’t kill the ban — when it comes to controlling what you eat, NYC is no democracy — but Quinn’s opposition carries political significance. She’s president of the Council and a Democrat and a Bloomberg ally and usually a supporter of his little health crusades and a very strong contender to succeed him as mayor. If she’s abandoning ship, it can only be because she’s not confident that the ban is being well received even in the deep blue utopia of NYC.

And she’s not the only mayoral contender who feels that way.

Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and a mayoral ally, pointed out that the key to getting people to eat healthier is to give them healthier options, and said during an avail today that she was concerned about the ban being excessively punitive.

“Fighting the obesity epidemic comes down to personal decisions and that’s why knowledge about nutrition is important because with it, people can make healthier choices. Another important factor is access to healthier foods. We’ve seen that if better choices are available, people will often take advantage of them. That’s why we’ve expanded Green Markets and the EBT program. However, limiting people’s choices is not about knowledge, empowerment or access. It seems punitive and I worry that in the end, this proposal won’t yield a positive result. Because after all, the person who doesn’t understand why it’s not healthy to drink 18oz of sugared soda, is simply going to get two 10oz cans or extra refills.”…

[Former City Comptroller Bill] Thompson says that the attention on the matter would be better focused on educating young people about the dangers of sugary foods.

“This move does nothing to teach people about positive nutritional values and sounds more like parlor talk than real solutions for the obesity epidemic. The city should be educating students in our schools about good health and not limiting what our citizens can purchase. Ten years into this administration and this is the best they can come up with?”

The current City Comptroller is also critical of the ban on grounds that we should be spending our time worrying instead about mandating bike helmets or something. (This is NYC, my friends. Sometimes nannyism can be defeated only through greater nannyism.) As much as I hate to undermine Quinn’s opposition, I’ve gotta say — the “people will simply buy two drinks now instead of one” argument seems a bit too pat to me. Some people will do that; if you’re parched and hankering for an ocean of soda, a 16-ouncer’s just not going to do it. Pop for two cups. But not everyone who springs for the 32-ouncer necessarily wants 32 ounces. Some people just want “a lot” and if they see 32 as an option, they’ll choose that because it’s undeniably “a lot.” If 16 is the top option, they might be satisfied with that instead — partly because of the psychological effect in choosing the largest available size, partly because of the inconvenience and expense in lugging around two cups, and partly because they’re not so thirsty that they need 32 ounces to feel sated. They might only need 20 and will make do with 16 rather than order a second cup for that extra little bit. If you’re opting for the occasional 16 instead of nursing a 32-ouncer that’s more than enough to fill you up but which you feel compelled to finish if only to get your money’s worth, then yeah, you’re going to lose some weight. That doesn’t justify his attempt to use state power to treat you like a child, but it’s not a wholly ineffective tactic.

Via Reason, two minutes of man-on-the-street reaction to the new ban. I don’t want to spoil it but the word “douche” is mentioned.

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