Opinion: Freedom Banned in New York

Ryan Wentz

Drinks above 16 ounces like this one were recently banned in New York City.

Ryan Wentz

On Thursday, Sept. 13, the New York City Board of Health banned the sale of sugary drinks in sizes of 16 ounces or more in certain locations throughout the city. Though created with the positive goal of fighting high obesity rates in New York, this ban violates the constitutional guarantee of liberty that we as Americans so often value. The New York City government blatantly ignored the introduction of the United States Constitution, as they have ceased to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves.” Additionally, the ban is an evident attack on business, as both the national soda industry and small New York businesses will feel the ill effects of the restrictions.

Though obesity is currently plaguing America today, more legislation is not the cure-all that America is seeking. According to The New York Times, over half of New York’s adults are currently either obese or overweight. However, the answer does not lie in un-American bans and regulations. Increasing awareness of the consequences of a sugar-high diet would solve the issue more smoothly.

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move organization, for instance, encourages healthier lifestyles through exercise campaigns and nutritional education. By tradition, encouragement and education solve everyday issues. However, there is no place for restrictive legislation in a nation historically defined by its consistent protection of freedom. Regulating everyday choices does not solve the issue of American obesity; rather, it only ignites anger among some American citizens.

Besides limiting simple freedoms, the ban is an attack on businesses. After passing, the ban was criticized by the soda industry and New York businesses alike. Elliot Huff, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices told The New York Times that the ban demonstrates that “the board has shown no regard for public opinion or consequences to the businesses in the city.” Meanwhile, the soda industry has spent more than $1 million on a campaign expressing the unjust nature of the ban, illustrating their contempt for the restrictions.

Lastly, the ban will surely prove ineffective. Refills of smaller cups will still provide customers with the sugar that they crave. Restrictions are simply ineffective ways to combat issues, made evident by times in our history when other goods are banned, like drugs. For instance, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, approximately 1,841, 200 drug arrests were made in 2007.

Nevertheless, as of 2008, nearly one-third of American high school seniors claimed to have consumed marijuana in the month prior to the study. In 2011, the United States government spent approximately 15.5 million dollars on drug control. Clearly, government spending and regulations in no way thwart consumption of outlawed substances.

The ban will go into effect on March 12. New Yorkers will learn first-hand the repercussions of an overbearing regulation, thus government. It has no place in the famed land of liberty, the United States of America.

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9 Responses to “Opinion: Freedom Banned in New York”

  1. rgordan on October 4th, 2012 9:08 pm

    Well done article. Ultimately the impetus to make the right health decisions has to come from individuals.

  2. Nolan Martin on October 4th, 2012 9:50 pm

    Do you really think that companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who distribute worldwide, are going to lose significant profit from the ban? This ban does not violate any part of the Constitution. If you want more than 16 oz. of soda, BUY MORE THAN ONE. The idea of the size ban is to affect people on a mental level, to attract buyers to a smaller standard size. Those attracted to consuming copious amounts of sugar can still do so wherever they please. Marijuana is not legal regardless of the amount any person tries to obtain. To draw parallels between sugary beverages and illegal narcotics is somewhat extreme, don’t you think? I don’t think that NYC has any intention of spending anything like $15.5 million on soda control.

  3. Ryan on October 4th, 2012 10:38 pm

    Nolan,
    Soda companies are not worried about losing profit, but rather are angered by the idea that the New York City government is limiting what they can/can’t do. The small New York businesses, on the other hand, are worried about the economic repercussions of the ban. About the Constitution, though not violating any particular amendment, it indeed violates the overarching guarantee of liberty to all Americans (which thereby includes their respective businesses). I agree with your belief that residents can simply refill smaller cups or buy more than one. In fact, I referenced that in the third to last paragraph. Lastly, I drew a parallel to the War on Drugs simply to demonstrate the historical ineffectiveness of substance bans. Thanks for the feedback though!

  4. mgeaghan-breiner on October 4th, 2012 10:49 pm

    Nolan- Actually, if New York can execute the ban successfully, many cities may well follow its lead, and this kind of ban could become a nationwide trend. In that case, companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi will lose a significant margin of their profit.
    Also, the ban does in fact violate not just “any part” of the Constitution but the one constant theme expressed throughout the entire document: that of individual liberty.
    As far as buying more than one 16-oz soda, Ryan did mention that the ban will prove ineffective specifically because, quote, “refills of smaller cups will still provide customers with the sugar that they crave.” Limiting sizes won’t alter people’s desire for sugar, and frankly won’t have much of an effect on consumer habits in NYC.
    Lastly, neither the author’s comparison to marijuana nor his example of the federal government’s war on drugs also should be taken literally. The message he’s communicating is that the money and energy wasted trying to implement this kind of legislation are too often all for naught. No good can come out of the government trying in vain to regulate the personal decisions of its citizenry. As Ryan so eloquently put it, this kind of regulation only infringes on the basic liberties of American people.

    Nolan Martin Reply:

    To clarify on the effectiveness of the ban: the aim of shrinking sizes is to create a smaller “standard size”. A large part of the population purchases goods based on a standard size. For sodas at entertainment venues, which the ban effects most, often times a 16.9 oz or 20 oz beverage is standard. These standard sizes are often sold as cap topped bottles rather than cans. People gravitate towards these as a result of their convenience factor and because they are psychologically drawn towards purchasing a standard size. By placing the ban on beverage sizes, this large part of the population will gravitate towards a smaller standard size, containing fewer calories and a smaller amount of sugar. This ban is not meant to effect any New Yorkers who down 120 oz. of sugared soda a day. The ban is meant to lower the sugar intake of the consumer who simply grabs a beverage off a shelf on the way to a movie or baseball game.
    As for violation of the overarching purpose of the Constitution to guarantee liberty, government regulation of businesses is not at all unusual. To use your reference, marijuana is illegal. The federal government deemed the substance to be something that should not be legal to use, own, or sell. Yes, the government took away citizens’ liberty to smoke cannabis, but they did so in the best interest of the country. NYC has made this choice for the benefit of their city.

  5. Mr. McBlair on October 4th, 2012 11:21 pm

    Details aside, it’s an important question: how involved do we want our government to be in deciding our health? The ban could have some deterrent effect, but the real issue is whether or not we should have the government messing with our heads about soda. Some things, like cigarettes, are great to have publicly discouraged.

    This step seems bizarre though, like making me fill up my tank multiple times to encourage me to have a more fuel-efficient car. It seems like if the product is bad it should either just be completely banned or not at all. This just seems like government-sponsored annoying you into health. Maybe the sodas themselves are the issue.

    Given that my body is a temple, I rarely drink the stuff, but when I do it’s usually on long drives when I need a striking amount. However, I worry about kids who lack the self-control or have parents that make bad decisions for them.

  6. Annalise Deal on October 4th, 2012 11:38 pm

    Ryan/Nolan/Meredith-
    It seems we can all agree on the fact that the legislation does not solve the root of the problem–people can still get more soda if the want more soda. Arguing the nuances of what the legislation can and cannot be compared to does not change what has happened: the city government has taken a step that they deemed necessary to combat obesity. Though it may potentially be ineffective at reaching the source of the problem, we can all agree measures need to be taken to address this dire issue in our country. The debate of constitutionality comes down to whether one feels the government should be allowed to protect us from ourselves and our own potential bad health. All three of you are well-versed on this topic, and luckily due to the democratic nature of our government, thus will soon have the opportunity to vote on such issues (or at least on the legislatures who decide them).

  7. David Schmitt on October 5th, 2012 3:06 pm

    I agree with McBlair. This seems like an odd step in trying to increase the health of the population, seeing as how there is such an easy way to get around the bill.

  8. mrichardson on December 17th, 2012 2:14 pm

    This seems like a silly way to try to stop the increase of obesity rates, it’s a worthless effort that I believe will have little or no impact on the health of our country