Ban on Soda in NYC
NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, recently proposed a ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. He’s not the first person to propose something along these lines. Many people who are in favor of imposing a high tax on sugary foods point to the staggering health care costs caused by obesity.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 66 percent of all Americans are considered either overweight or obese. The NIDDK states that those who are considered obese will pay on average 40 percent more in health care costs than those considered to be normal weight. The cost to programs like Medicare and Medicaid is staggering. Medicare pays $1,723 more per year for every obese beneficiary and Medicaid pays $1,021 more per year.
In January 2011, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) found the total economic cost of obesity and overweight in the United States to be a whopping $270 billion per year and in Canada the cost was about $30 billion per year. The SOA found the combined $300 billion cost to be a result of increased need for medical care ($127 billion); loss of worker productivity due to higher rates of death ($49 billion); loss of productivity due to disability of active workers ($43 billion); and loss of productivity due to total disability ($72 billion). Some experts feel these figures are probably even higher.
Obviously the cost to society as a whole is enormous. But does it require government intervention in the form of limiting our sugar intake? Would government intervention even work? Consider the history of prohibition. Outlawing alcohol certainly didn’t eliminate drinking. It opened up an entirely new can of worms. Cigarette smoking causes numerous health problems, with devastating medical costs, but cigarettes are legal, readily available and not portion controlled. Consumers are free to purchase as many cartons of cigarettes as they wish (or can afford). Sure, the government has taxed the heck out of cigarettes, but has it stopped people from smoking? Of course not. I personally know people who would raid their kid’s piggy bank to buy a pack of smokes.
Many people think that big brother is already in our business enough. Helmet laws, seat belt laws and censorship are just a few laws that some groups feel infringe on our rights as Americans. True, helmet and seat belt laws save lives, but if I want to ride a motorcycle sans helmet shouldn’t I be allowed to? I might crack my skull, but isn’t my skull to crack? And, censorship? Just because my neighbor is offended by my music, television show, movie or naughty word does that mean she has to impose her views on me? Can’t she simply change the channel? But I digress.
So, in getting back to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, if such a law were to be passed, I have to wonder what would prevent consumers from purchasing a smaller drink and going back for refills? People do that all the time. Will servers be required to cut you off when you’ve reached your 16 ounce limit?
Obesity is certainly not just a result of too much sugar. Inactivity and fatty foods are also to blame. Would that prompt politicians to require Americans to engage in an hour’s worth of calisthenics every day and place a limit on how many Big Macs we can eat? Where will it end?