As a New York court prepares to hear the plea to revive a ban on large soft drinks, and citizens of Berkeley, California get ready to vote on a soda tax, opponents say the nanny state is overstepping its grounds. Americans struggle with their weight, there’s no arguing that, but does legislating unhealthy food really hold the answer?
“What if a study said hamburgers are bad and there’s not one good thing about them?” New York Court of Appeals Judge Jonathan Lippman asked in Albany. “You can ban the triple deckers, all three patties?”
Judge Lippman had just heard from Richard Dearing, an attorney for New York City, who argues that the city’s health department has the power to ban whatever unhealthy foods they want, including large soft drinks, as they did in a law struck down by the lower courts.
“The category of (banned) products is based entirely on scientific evidence,” Dearing said according to Reuters. He maintains that the board should be able to completely outlaw foods in cases where scientific studies suggest their unhealthy nature.
In California, another fight is gearing up, albeit a gentler one. There, residents of the city of Berkeley will go to the polls to determine whether or not to enact a soda tax. The tax would levy one penny per ounce of soda.
The majority of Californians approve of a soda tax, with most believing it could have positive effects on health and the state’s coffers. Still, previous municipal ballot issues in the cities of Richmond and El Monte have failed.
For those that approve of the NYC ban and the California proposed tax, the issue is health. If we can somehow force consumers to rethink their junk food choices, perhaps our collective health will increase.
For opponents, however, the rules are a slippery slope.
“For the very first time, a board has taken it upon itself to intrude on people’s personal decisions; how much you want to eat, what you want to eat,” explained Richard Bress, an attorney representing the trade groups in the NYC case.
While Bress has a point, it’s not likely the real reason his clients are concerned about the ban. After all, in a city of more than 8 million, a ban on sodas would no doubt put a major dent in revenues.
What do you think about a soda tax? Is it really justifiable to ‘restrict’ food and drink in such a way?