What a week it's been for big sugary drinks in New York City! A rather vague and confusing ban on same was scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday. On Monday, however, a State Supreme Court Justice struck it down. "Arbitrary and capricious", Justice Milton Tingling ruled, an unusually harsh rebuke to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In case you missed it, Bloomberg is unused to having his way impeded, especially during this, his legacy building victory lap.
Funny thing is, they're both right in their own way. Justice Tingling said, rightly, that the ban is not even close to being uniform. After all, a corner deli would be limited to a 16 oz. soda, while a 7-11 down the block could keep selling monster size drinks loaded with sugar to their heart's content.
On the other hand, the people who say its a matter of choice and that Bloomberg is acting like a nanny again completely miss the point. Soda serving sizes have increased geometrically over the years. When McDonald's first opened its doors, the only serving size for a soda was 7 oz. Try buying one that size today. The increase in soda size wasn't a result of petitions from consumers demanding the right to drink a Big Gulp. It was a function of the beverage industry trying to make more money.
And now, the big sugary drink makers have something else to contend with. Americans drank more water than soda last year, by a margin of 55 gallons to 48. The beverage folks can only react two ways to this news, which should warm the heart of every health professional in America. They can buy up water companies (which they've done, many of them), while at the same time fighting a pitched battle against any sensible regulation on soda size.
They also have unlikely allies in the fight for big sugary drinks. Some of the nation's foremost civil rights and minority advocacy organizations are weighing in on the side of big soda. It's no wonder. The beverage industry kicks in millions of dollars to help keep those organizations running.
It's like the opening scene in the first "Godfather" movie. The undertaker, Bonasera, asks Vito Corleone to avenge the sexual assault of his daughter. After making him grovel a bit, the Godfather agrees. Later in the film, after his oldest son was killed, Vito Corleone visits the undertaker to collect on the favor.
"Well, my friend, are you ready to do me this service?"