Government ban on sugary soft drinks goes too far

Government does have a role in public health, but that is through education, rather than consumption mandates.

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Let's be clear. We do not believe it's wise or healthy to down one sugary drink after another. These high calorie drinks -- usually sodas -- should be consumed in moderation.

Yet, we are troubled by the effort in New York to allow the city government to dictate the quantity of sugary beverages that can be purchased by an individual. Coke, Pepsi and every other brand of beverage are products that can be purchased legally. It is simply not the business of government to regulate our eating and drinking.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for a ban on large sugary drinks in restaurants, theaters and elsewhere.

"Sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic," Bloomberg said. "This year an estimated 5,800 New Yorkers will die because they are obese or overweight."

Nobody disputes this is a problem in New York or anywhere else in America. But if government can set a limit for the amount of sugary drinks consumed, what's next? Gravy? Fried foods? Macaroni and cheese? Candy bars? Cakes? Pies? Red meat?

This ban on large drinks has crossed the line.

Government does have a role in public health, but that is mostly through education. Government shouldn't be acting like parents -- cutting our meat and deciding whether we can have ice cream.

It is fine -- maybe even wise -- for government-run public schools to limit or not offer sugary drinks. Offering healthy choices at schools is, in our opinion, part of the education process.

The ban on large drinks in New York is under fire on several fronts.

About 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to protest the proposed ban, which must be approved by the city's Board of Health (appointed by the mayor).

Opponents, including members of the restaurant and soft drink industries as well as libertarians, have accused him of attempting to institute a "nanny state" with far-reaching government controls that infringe on individual choice, The Associated Press reported.

The opponents have it right. A private business should have the freedom to decide whether it's a good business decision to offer or not offer certain products such as Coke and Pepsi. And adults should have the right to decide for themselves if they want a sugary drink and how much they want to drink.

We appreciate the noble effort to try to save lives, but government can't -- and shouldn't -- bubble wrap every person to protect them from possible harm. Risks, including making the choice to consume unhealthy foods and drink, are simply part of life.

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