Bloomberg’s Soda Ban Just Happened

Get ready to get angry, freedom fighters: The New York City Board of Health just passed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial ban on selling super-sized drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and everywhere else that people go to have fun (note: this statement may or may not be a slight exaggeration).

We have to say that we’re surprised by this event, despite the fact that the members of the board were appointed by the mayor himself. After Bloomberg lined up a few weight loss industry bigwigs to support his plan, we wondered whether he was truly set on passing the plan or just wanted to take every opportunity to call attention to the relationship between sugar and obesity.

But it’s happening: the vote was 8-0 with one abstention, one absence and one vacancy. Despite public opposition to the ban, it will go into effect in March–and fines will begin flying in June. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley called the vote “historic”; Bloomberg tweeted that the ban is “the single biggest step any gov’t has taken to curb obesity,” and that “It will help save lives.”

Expect lawsuits to follow; opponents are “are exploring all possible paths to prevent the new ban from taking effect next year”, and we are fairly certain that Bloomberg will embark on a big PR push to emphasize the potential benefits of this unprecedented development. In fact, opponents are already complaining about the fact that he preceded the vote with a 20-minute presentation rebutting their objections.

Bloomberg responded to critics by saying: “I don’t think it’s government’s job to ban people from doing things with a handful of exceptions. But, generally, it’s government’s job to tell you the facts of what is bad for you and let you make your own decision.”

Yeah, we don’t think that’s going to be good enough.

The initiative’s supporters now say they hope it will spread across the country like the mayor’s more popular 2002 ban on smoking in indoor space–but we frankly don’t see that happening because soda, unlike tobacco, is not truly addictive, and it can be perfectly fine when consumed responsibly (here’s a nice rundown of why the ban won’t work).

While we want to applaud the mayor’s obviously genuine desire to help curb the very real health problems facing our society, we have to believe that he knows this to be a questionable PR move–and that he wouldn’t have done it if this were not his last possible term.

What can Bloomberg do to make this move a little more palatable to the public at large?