Give me a 32-ounce soda or give me death! Seriously?
WHY has there been so much fuss about New York City’s attempt to impose a soda ban, or more precisely, a ban on large-size “sugary drinks”? After all, people can still get as much soda as they want. This isn’t Prohibition. It’s just that getting it would take slightly more effort. So, why is this such a big deal?
Obviously, it’s not about soda. It’s because such a ban suggests that sometimes we need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff, and this has become, in contemporary American politics, highly controversial, no matter how trivial the particular issue. (Large cups of soda as symbols of human dignity? Really?)
Why do we continually need to intensify this argument to include a "nanny state"? We have already demonstrated that making certain products less easily available does not abridge individual rights, nor does it take away an individual's ability to do what he pleases. Examples? Selling cigarettes from behind the counter rather than in vending machines. Removing full sugar sodas from vending machines in schools. Changing the menus of hospital cafeterias to conform to healthy guidlelines and to eliminate foods that don't make the cut. Curtailing cigarette and alcohol advertising. All of these moves serve to change public perception about certain products, make us more circumspect about choosing them, and make access to them slightly more difficult. None of these moves abridges ones rights to eat or drink whatever one chooses. The "Nanny State" debate only comes into play when we consider making a new change. It supposes the most extreme scenario: government control over our health habits. Nothing in our past experience, including the decreased availability of public spaces for smoking or the warnings on tobacco products, leads us to conclude that a government take-over of our habits is any kind of realistic threat.