Accuracy in Media

“A nanny state measure of gulpable proportions has been struck down in New York state’s highest court,” reports The New York Times. But the Times casts this as a big win for the soft-drink lobby rather than a win for the rights of individual citizens.

“The state’s highest court on Thursday refused to reinstate New York City’s controversial limits on sales of jumbo sugary drinks, exhausting the city’s final appeal and handing a major victory to the American soft-drink industry…” reports Michael M. Grynbaum. “The decision most likely will be seen as a significant defeat for public health advocates who have urged state and local governments to actively discourage the consumption of high-calorie beverages, saying the drinks are prime drivers of a nationwide epidemic of obesity.”

But wait, if there’s a ban on large sugary drinks, can’t a customer just buy two at the same time, or buy a second sugary beverage at a different location? And that’s just a taste of how a notion that everyone can agree on—that obesity is a bad thing and should be avoided—doesn’t easily translate into legislation. How about urging personal and family responsibility instead of Big Brother busting people for drinking too much soda water?

As the Times points out, “The rules would have covered places like fast-food franchises, delis and movie theaters, but convenience stores and grocery markets would have been exempt. And while the limits would have applied to a broad menu of popular drinks, there were many exceptions, including milkshakes, fruit juices and alcoholic beverages.”

Welcome to bureaucratic central planning. How many new law enforcement officials would have to be hired to handle the wave of law-breaking that this would engender?

Besides the ruling itself, Grynbaum quotes from three sources opposed to the ruling, but gives space to one source—a lobbying trade association—that opposed the ban and is “pleased” with this outcome. Yet, Grynbaum admits that a 2012 poll shows that a majority of New Yorkers (six in 10) opposed the soda regulations. Their voices are not heard here.

Bloomberg’s proposal “ignited a global debate over soda consumption,” he notes. It ignited a debate over nanny-state measures and civil liberties, too. Here’s just a taste of what was said:

“An individual’s freedom to exercise personal choice not only bolsters human dignity, but reinforces personal responsibility. … The individual, and not government, is in the best position to make these choices, and it is only through the making of individual choices that we can understand human preferences and needs,” wrote Anastasia Killian of the Washington Legal Foundation in 2012.

“The ban is at the point where it is an infringement of civil liberties…There are many other things that people do that aren’t healthy, so I think it’s a big overreach,” Liz Hare told the Times in 2012.

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