If I believe it's my civic duty to consume ungodly amounts of soft drinks and other sugary beverages, then by golly I should be allowed to. Don’t you agree? According to Gallup’s latest poll:
69% of Americans agree wholeheartedly. Efforts by politicians like the infamous Mayor Bloomberg have attempted to curb this right and strip us of our boundless liberty. On the other hand, proponents of the ban hope to ward off rising obesity rates and increased health problems.
With two clearly coherent sides to the issue, we must ask — what is really at stake here?
Apparently, 69% of us think that we should be capable of making our own decisions without influence or regulation from an external source. We are autonomous individuals — and ruggedly so — that have a right to exercise this liberty insofar as it does not affect anyone outside of our person. Sounds good, but I would venture to guess that if your average neigborhood Pink Floyd fan used that argument in favor of marijuana use, that same 69% of rugged individuals would have something to say about it — at least, a large portion of them would.
“But this is so clearly different,” Joe Sixpack will say. “Excessive Marijuana is bad for you. It alters your body and puts you at risk.”
Insert “soft drink,” or “big slurp,” or “coffee” — one of the substances surprisingly under scrutiny — and the claim still holds. There are certain substances that can arguably change or harm your health, but that we are given the choice to evaluate and discern their value is a right that both sides of this argument can relate to.
Deeper still are the racial and socioeconomic lines on which support for the soda ban falls. “Americans who make less than $24,000 per year and nonwhites are somewhat more likely to support such a law than their higher-income and white counterparts.” According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 90-95% of people who have diabetes, have Type 2, and of that 95%, 80% are of nonwhite ethnicities. This means that the people more likely affected by diabetes and obesity, support the bill, while those less affected by the health risks allegedly targeted by the ban, do not. This by no means disregards the number of people who are not part of this subsection who are affected, or who do belong to the subsection and do not support the bill. It does however disregard the notion that those suffering from these health problems — regardless of race or economic status — are “super-sizing” their drinks at every opportunity.
Does this mean that we will see a rise in “soft drink size bans” across the country, or is this just confined to Mayor Bloomberg and his desire to play nanny?
As with the marijuana debate, it looks like the American people believe liberty to mean boundless liberty, whether or not our Founders really meant it that way. We opt for more choice, even when those choices are misinformed. Since this is the case, I think we can try to ban the size of drinks, but will ultimately defeat ourselves in the process. We might be better off by improving health education so that even with that 64 oz. Vanilla Cherry Coke and a side of Hash as an option, we can make informed decisions not to exercise our ever-increasing right to choose.