New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg (that’s “The Dictator” to his haters and “El Bloombito” to fans of his poorly spoken Spanish) seems to be losing his ongoing PR war with the American waistline. Today, however, the big dog gained some unexpected corporate support for his controversial “soda ban”, which will be subject to a vote by the city’s Board of Health next week. (We should note that the members of this board were appointed by the mayor himself.)
After declaring victory over the mighty forces of tobacco and trans-fatty acids, the mayor has dedicated his latest salvo in the obesity battle to manipulating consumer behaviors by limiting the size of sugary drinks served at restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and other common soda spots. His proposal makes sense in a way: Everyone agrees that Americans drink far too much soda, and reducing our dependence on sugary drinks may be the easiest way to lower our calorie count.
But the move also tickled New York’s famously independent (dare we say Libertarian) streak. It led to the creation of a group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, inspired Coca-Cola to run a PR counterattack and even convinced some opponents to drag their not-quite-obese bodies down to city hall for a good old protest. Will the words of Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig soften their convictions? Probably not.
So what’s the news? In a press conference today, Bloomberg announced that some of the biggest names in the weight loss biz have joined the list of physicians and politicians who stand behind him. In addition to the aforementioned Watchers and Craig, new supporters include the founders of The South Beach Diet and The Best Life.
We’re not sure how much these big-name pseudo-sponsorships will help Bloomberg’s cause, but we’ve begun to consider an alternate narrative: Maybe the mayor doesn’t actually expect to sign his proposals into law. Maybe he just wants to garner as much media attention as possible to remind customers how horrible sugary drinks can be for their health. If you’ve been following this story for the past few months, you may have found yourself paying a greater degree of attention to the amount of soda and coffee you drink. In that case, Bloomberg may come out on top even if his proposal doesn’t pass the Board of Health.
Of course, 20% of NYC schoolkids are still obese–but we’ve grown to accept stats like these as the norm, right? Wasn’t that Bloomberg’s point?