A Big Government Step - The Missourian: Columns

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A Big Government Step

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Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013 5:15 pm

It’s getting to be common, big steps by the government to enter our lives. Some of the steps, it has been argued, are necessary because it is necessary for government to protect us from ourselves. There are countless laws along those lines, from seat belts, to no-smoking bans, to sugary drinks, and perhaps even installing stop signs and speed limits.

Like many Americans, we thought banning large, sugary drinks by New York was a Big Foot step. Now a New York state judge has struck down that law, which was enacted as part of the antiobesity campaign. The law in New York had support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. The mayor says he will continue to fight for the citywide ban.

The judge ruled that the limits would be “arbitrary and capricious” because they apply unequally to some establishments and to different kinds of sugary beverages. The decision probably will be appealed. The New York Times said the fight over soda regulations is likely to intensify beyond New York in the coming months.

We all know there is an obesity health problem in this country. People eat and drink many food and liquid products that can contribute to obesity. If government is going to ban soda drinks, what’s next? Candy bars? Ice cream? French fries? We don’t have the space to list more of the food items.

We agree with those people who say education is an answer to the obesity problem. The problem with advising what is a healthful diet, especially to avoid obesity, is that only so many people will take the advice. There are many health care organizations, such as hospitals, that do what they can to advise people on healthy eating to avoid obesity. Again, they can’t reach everyone. The message can be widely spread, but only so many people listen and are willing to change their lifestyles. An example is smoking.

In New York, a number of not-for-profit organizations have joined with the beverage industry in fighting bans on their products. “In many cases, the financial relationships between soda companies and nonprofit groups go back decades, stemming from the industry’s early embrace of the civil rights movement,” The Times said. “But as battles over soda taxes have broken out around the country in recent years, advocates for tighter regulations argue, the money has effectively muzzled organizations that might otherwise be on the side of regulations.” There may be some truth to that.

Officials of Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola, whose products dominate the market, said there is no connection between the grants to community groups and their positions on soda regulations, The Times reported. These companies, and others, have a long record of contributing to community organizations. They have done it to create goodwill and to help people in communities. When they began their involvement in civic work, it wasn’t to ward off regulations because there was no movement for them at that time.

Granted there are health problems with obesity. We don’t think a ban on large and sugary soda is going to solve the health problems associated with obesity. Yes, it may help with some people.

The problem really is one of government’s reach into the private lives of people. Regardless of how well the intention is of these regulations, there has to be a line drawn. In New York, government crossed the line.

/opinion/columns