Mayor Bloomberg and New York’s efforts to help and protect against childhood obesity ran amuck this week. A Judge struck down New York City’s ban on large sizes of sodas over 16 ounces saying that it was
“arbitrary and capricious” and therefore unconstitutional. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts for trying to do something about the obesity in his city by attempting to pass this law. But one has to wonder if there were better ways to go about it to accomplish the goal. Obesity and the health issues and diseases caused by it are a great concern in this country to those who care about our youth and our society. Rising health costs due to obesity in New York city alone are estimated to cost a whopping $2.8 billion in New York alone, according to their Health Commissioner, Thomas Farley. And with our youth expected to have a decreased life expectancy and quality of life due to obesity, something has to be done. Banning the size of sugary drinks in some establishments but allowing them to sit on the shelves of grocery stores, 7 – Elevens and convenience stores hardly seems like it would solve the problem in a substantial way. And even in those establishments where the soda sizes were banned, there was nothing to prevent refills of the 16 ounces as many times as a person desired. Educational programs and exercise programs also would help in a more substantial way.
Legally, the ban was not across the board in all areas selling sugar drinks in excess of 16 ounces. Therein lay the problem. There were so many exceptions that its usefulness was in doubt anyway. The ban only covered those eateries that were covered by New York’s health department’s grades. So the real culprits like 7-Eleven Big Gulps and other convenience stores along with grocery stores were not covered. Those exceptions led the lower court judge to rule that the ban was “arbitrary and capricious” in that it eliminated as many types of establishments that it covered.
Other bans were found to be more acceptable like the trans fat ban. The better approach would be for education on obesity and health issues. First Lady Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move program is one example of educating people about exercise and healthy eating choices. Yes, I know that’s easier said than done. And there are many who will refuse to become educated. But the laws in New York and some Maryland counties and elsewhere that require postings of calories is a better form of education than a mandatory ban which exempts as many places as it covers.
Mayor Bloomberg says New York intends to appeal the ruling. Good luck with that one.
UPDATE ON WOMAN CHARGED IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING
In an update to an earlier post on human trafficking by a New York woman who held an immigrant against her will, forcing her to work 7 days a week without pay and live in a closet, despite the house’s 26 bedrooms, she was found guilty of human trafficking charges and will face jail time. Human trafficking laws need to be given more attention on a national level. There are many such cases in the country. This one case is not an aberration. And more laws need to be brought on a national and state level carrying higher prison terms and protections for those victims of human trafficking. Until recently, these cases have been under the radar in many states. The State of Maryland has one of the stricter laws against human trafficking. A national approach would allow more focus on the area and bring attention to some of the most vulnerable victims in our society today.