It is no secret on this blog that I am a critic of efforts to ban fatty foods and sugary drinks as with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ill-considered campaign in New York. San Francisco attempted the same paternalistic legislation in imposing a tax on such drinks — only to have voters reject the measure. Undeterred, the Land Use Committee in San Francisco is considering a host of proposals to label sodas or bar advertisements. I remain opposed to such measures as punishing people for lifestyle choices. While the city would not oppose any number of life style choices, it will not tolerate citizens who disregard the city’s view of healthy living.
The city ma now require soda ads on buses, billboards and other city surfaces to carry statement “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”
The State Senate has been considering a similar warning for individual bottles and cans of sugar-sweetened drinks sold in California.
For his part, Supervisor Eric Mar wants to ban the spending of city money on soda. It is all part of condemning and harassing the choices people make in terms of what they eat or drink. It is highly ironic in a city that championed the concept of alternative lifestyles is now leading the effort to limit or punish choices that it deems unhealthy.
The result of these warnings is little more than textual overload. People are increasingly tuning out such warnings like those vocal warnings of risks of television ads. Having a warning box on a Coke ad is likely to do little to actually combat consumption. It will however do wonders for politicians who want to show that they are leading campaigns against bad choices. Of course, there will be no warnings on the local Ghirardelli Chocolate Company products or the host of high fat cuisines that make the city such an attraction for tourists. So you get a lecture and made a tax on your soda, but not that huge slice of chocolate cake that comes with it. Likewise, you might not be able to buy a Coke but you can have that high-caloric Mojito.
Ironically, without such nanny state legislation, soda consumption is actually falling. It is the market that is changing with an assortment of alternative drinks.
I have no problem (and support) educational programs and banning sodas at schools. However, adults should not be harassed over such choices, particularly when you are doing nothing about higher caloric drinks and foods. Ultimately, adults should and will make their own decisions on the priorities in the lives. Even if one accepts that a city should punish those making bad choices, it should at least be consistent in dealing with all high sugar foods and drinks.