Mathis: Bloomberg's soda ban can save us from ourselves

Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference

Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference in New York City after a New York state judge halted a controversial ban on large sugary drinks. (March 11, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

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I, for one, welcome the rise of the nanny state.

Now, nobody wants the government elbowing its way into your kitchen, putting you on a scale, then telling you what you can and can’t eat.

On the other hand, maybe it’s time somebody did.


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Consider: During this decade, the state of New York will spend $136 billion treating obesity-related diseases. Nationwide, all spending on obesity-related diseases rose from 6 percent of health spending in 1998 to 10 percent in 2006. That same year, obesity-related spending comprised 8.5 percent of Medicare spending and 11.5 percent of Medicaid spending. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that 13 states could see obesity rates of more than 60 percent by 2030.

Oh, and: American men have the shortest life expectancy in the developed world. American women have the second shortest.

It’s no secret that we Americans are getting fatter all the time. What that means, though, is that every time somebody walks out of a convenience store with a bucket — excuse me, cup — carrying 64 ounces of Mountain Dew, they’re essentially reaching into your pocket and pilfering a dollar or two for their own medical care. That’s true if they rely on public assistance for health care, or if they’re on an insurance plan that pools your premiums with contributions from thousands of other customers.

You want personal responsibility? Looks like it’s failed. Does that mean we should collectively watch America slide off a cliff made of corn syrup and hydrogenated fats? Or is it appropriate to nudge citizens — and a 16-ounce soda limitation is, essentially, a nudge — to make better decisions for their health?

We Americans rightly hold tight to our liberties. But sometimes we cannot see the forest for the big, fat, greasy trees. Maybe our national motto should be to “Give us a Big Gulp or give us death.” At the rate we’re going, we’ll get both.

Joel Mathis is a writer in Philadelphia. 

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