We’ve been counting the ways that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s soda ban is a bad idea for slowing obesity. Let’s add another one.
Dr. David Gratzer, writing in the Huffington Post, says that not only is it impractical, but it is wrongheaded in its approach to the problem of obesity. He argues that the goal of “public health advocates” has been to compare soda (and other foods) to a past enemy, a completely irrelevant premise:
For years, public health advocates have openly — and selectively — tried to demonize soda companies in language that compares them to cigarette companies.
Gratzer notes several of these faux-parallels. A few of our favorites:
- Soda bans are fighting a condition, obesity, whereas tobacco legislation is aimed at the dangerous product. Soft drinks contribute only seven percent of our daily calories — hardly enough to cause rampant obesity alone — while tobacco contributes all the harm from tobacco.
- There is no evidence of “food addiction,” far from the convincing evidence of tobacco addiction (but you already knew that). Cambridge University scientists assessed the evidence and found that “criteria for substance dependence translate poorly to food-related behaviors.”
- Tobacco is easy to tax since the problem is the product. With food, regulators have to choose which of the 38,000 items in the typical grocery store should be punished and which should be praised. (Good luck with that, Mr. Bittman.)
- Second-hand effects
from foods and drinks are nonexistent. You have both the right and responsibility to control your own fork or glass.
Just because trial lawyers are trying to replicate tobacco lawsuits to attack food, it doesn’t mean that people who are actually concerned about obesity should do the same. No matter what else you do, tobacco is highly addictive and damaging. What Bloomberg and friends forget is that food is not inherently bad. Although you don’t need to be an Olympian, you need to engage in some physical activity, because the world has changed and small choices make a big difference.