Based on the last few years of health-related regulations (mandating calorie counts on menus, banning margarine from recipes, etc.), it appears that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his sidekick, Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, have taken it upon themselves to personally police the health habits of each of the city’s eight million residents. But according to a weekend report from the Daily News, these paternalistic interventions only apply to those outside of City Hall.
Last month, the city’s Health Department launched its “Burn Calories, Not Electricity” campaign, urging people to take the stairs. Since the department’s own headquarters blocks lobby access to stairways, “the newest initiative seemed at odds with everyday reality at their building.”
This type of conflict is nothing new.
In 2007, policymakers in the Big Apple garnered national attention when they banned trans fats from most of the city’s restaurants. But Wired magazine caught Mayor Bloomberg in a spectacular display of hypocrisy, snacking on what Newsday called “those very same dangerous fats.” Snarked Newsday: “They may be too unhealthy for regular New Yorkers to eat, but not so for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, apparently.”
Just like the mayor’s snack habits, the Health Department’s inaction speaks louder than its hollow words. Though health officials are eager to tell others how to live, that enthusiasm don’t carry over to taking their own advice.