Editorial: Banish the soda ban but let information campaign bubble up
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched an appeal and embarked on an all-out bid for public support in the wake of a State Supreme Court decision striking down his attempt to limit the size of sugary soft drinks. He's doing a good thing badly.
"I've got to defend my children -- and yours -- and do what's right to save lives," he said. "Obesity kills."
The mayor is right about that, and his overall campaign to improve public health in the city is more than welcome.
But he overstepped his political authority on the soda limits. An amplified public information program is a better way to go.
State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, who made the ruling, was troubled that the mayor failed to seek City Council approval of the limits and that the city's standards were not applied to all vendors equally. Those are matters for the appellate courts to decide.
Yet there's a broader question here: Why is it the city's job to tell people in restaurants, theaters, neighborhood delis and other businesses serving food that they can't gulp more than 16 ounces of a sugary soda in one sitting?
The restriction isn't analogous to the mayor's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Secondhand smoke hurts bystanders.
It isn't like his ban on using most trans-fats in restaurant cooking. The city is looking out for consumers who have few ways to look out for themselves. And it isn't like the campaign requiring restaurants to post calorie counts, which simply allows consumers to make better-informed choices.
The mayor's sugary drink limit is far more intrusive -- preventing consumers from making their own decisions on matters that risk their health and no one else's.
In 2009, the New York City Health Department rolled out an ad campaign in the subways advising riders against "pouring on the pounds" with sugary soft drinks. It should stick to that technique. There's evidence an intensified campaign could reap big results. Industry experts already say soda consumption is falling while water-drinking rises.
Time to put a stopper in the big-soda ban.