Having solved all other problems plaguing our society, New York Times opinion author (and food journalist) Mark Bittman has his eye on the big prize. Taking a page from Michael Bloomberg’s big government playbook, Mark is looking for a new way stop people from drinking soda. Since efforts to ban sales of any sort fell flat in the courts (pun intended) the author is looking for more of a generational change, and the way to do that is to stop kids from getting in the habit of drinking the sugary beverages at an early age. How do we do that? We start treating soda like tobacco and establish a minimum age to purchase it. (Daily Caller)
“It’s really the equivalent of saying smoking cigarettes makes you really cool. When you’re fourteen and you want to be cool, you should start smoking cigarettes. We don’t allow that anymore,” said Bittman.
In the interview, Bittman claims he wants to start a discussion about carding kids who try buy soda. But his remarks suggests he is much more interested in providing answers to alleged problems, than asking questions about what would make good policy.
“In other words, you have to be sixteen to buy a Coke, because we don’t think that you’re able to make a decision about how much soda you can drink until you’re sixteen. Really it should be twenty, but I’m compromising because it’s such a far-fetched idea. But it’s not a wrong idea, it’s a right idea.”
This is the opposite side of the coin from big government liberals’ normal policy when they want to modify social behavior. If you can’t tax something to the point of being unobtainable, you regulate its availability through government fiat. Of course, the idea that teen smoking decreased by establishing a minimum age to purchase cigarettes is laughable because those laws are so easy to get around. There has been a decrease in smoking, thankfully, but it came about through public education regarding the health risks involved.
While we’re on the subject of regulation, how would this be enforced? I’m not sure how many kids age 16 and under have state issued ID cards. (Is it a lot these days?) If not, then the city would set themselves up for a thriving new business of issuing and regulating ID cards for this new class of regulated citizens, because obviously the cards wouldn’t be free.
But in the end, this is a question of whether or not the position of the government is that the product is actually harmful. We don’t allow the sale of beverages with mercury or hydrochloric acid in them. Those are poisonous! If the government’s position is that sugar is a poison, simply ban it. The same could be done to tobacco and alcohol, right? Oh, wait… we’ve tried that before and the results were somewhat disastrous. There’s also the fact that the sugar lobby dumps massive amounts of money into elections. We don’t want to tick them off, now do we? If there’s anything out there that you could really make a case for banning, it would be cigarettes, but the number of jobs you’d lose and the hole you’d shoot in several states’ economies is too heavy of a price to pay.
This is just social engineering on a miniaturized scale. If you want kids to drink less (or zero) soda, talk to their parents. Make the case to them and convince them that it’s a health hazard. They’re the only ones who can change behavior on a generational scale. It’s not the government’s job and they would be terrible at it even if it were.