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18 Mar 2013 - The Big Gulp is Still Alive!

So what do I mean when I say “The Big Gulp is still alive”? I will explain, but let me begin by tipping my hat and saluting New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling. A few days ago, Justice Tingling knocked down New York City’s ban, approved last September by the New York City Board of Health, that would have prohibited restaurants, movie theaters and other food service establishments from serving sugary drinks in sizes bigger than 16 ounces.

I was not alone in calling it one of the dumber laws we have recently seen, raising the question, “Why, with all the economic problems and the other major issues facing government bodies, are we dealing with a law like this?” Well, of course, it was Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to curb obesity by passing a law.

Justice Tingling said the law was “arbitrary and capricious”. He found that the Board of Health had overstepped the authority it was granted to fulfill it’s mission, which is protecting against and preventing diseases. That authority, according to the Judge, does not include the power to limit or ban a legal item, under the guise of controlling chronic disease.

The Justice found another problem with the law. He noted the regulations would not have applied equally across eating establishments. For example, sugary milk products would have been exempt from the ban, and 7-11 and other convenience stores and supermarkets were not included, so they didn’t have to abide by the “16-ounce cup” rule. That means the Big Gulp, the 64-ounce beverage container advertised and served at 7-11 stores across the country would still be available in New York City.

To me, this situation again raises the question of personal responsibility. I’ve talked about this a great deal over the years; we love to blame somebody or something for an incident rather than blame ourselves and accept personal responsibility. In New York City, they pass a law to tell us how much beverage we should consume so we don’t have to use common sense, and that will solve the obesity problem. But, I ask, what would keep me from buying four sixteen-ounce cups and creating my own Big Gulp?

I like what they are doing in Mississippi; there the State Legislature has passed what it calls the anti-Bloomberg bill that would keep counties and towns in that state from enacting any rules governing the size of big sodas or similar restrictions of food makers. Determining the size of drinks and the foods we put on our plate is not the role of government. It is up to us to exercise common sense and accept personal responsibility, something that cannot be mandated by government.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.