Saturday, September 15, 2012

Michael Bloomberg: A modern-day Don Quixote?

Love him or hate him, you just can't ignore him!
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been vilified and pilloried for steamrolling through legislation that clamps down on the sale of super-sized colas and sugary drinks in many large outlets in the city’s five boroughs.
His justification?
More than half of adult New Yorkers are obese or overweight and annually nearly 6,000 New Yorkers lose their lives to the burgeoning epidemic of obesity.
Bloomberg has made curbing obesity a top goal of his administration. Obesity increases the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses.
"We cannot continue to have our kids come down with diabetes at age 6."
Rising obesity among children is of specific concern as it puts them at greater risk of serious health problems as they age. Doctors believe that children who are extremely obese may continue to be extremely obese as adults.
Despite his good, some call it misguided, intention Bloomberg is being seen in some quarters as a modern-day Don Quixote tilting at windmills represented, in this case, by large fast-food chain restaurants!
Up in arms are those who will be badly hit by the 16-ounce limit on sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, delis and theaters – the soft drinks and restaurant industries and the large movie chains.
Backing them are 60 per cent of New Yorkers who oppose the restrictions, according to a New York Times poll.
They believe the measure is:
  • An assault on personal liberty. At the best of times New Yorkers don’t like to be told what to do. Bloomberg has been accused of being overbearing, over-reacting and turning New York into a 'nanny’ state.
  • Self-defeating. According to the ban refills are permitted. Even by Bloomberg's admission "restaurant customers can still buy as much soda as they want, as long as they are willing to carry it in multiple containers".
  • The regulation has its limits. The restrictions do not apply to supermarkets or most convenience stores since they are not subject to New York City Board of Health regulations.
However, let’s count the calories.
A 20-ounce Coke has 24o calories and a 16-ounce Coke 200 calories.
If you drink a Coke a day, choosing a 16-ounce bottle over the 20-ounce would say you 14,600 calories over a year. That is enough to add about 1.8 kilograms of fat to your body!
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley believes that if New Yorkers reduced their cola consumption from 20 ounces to 16 ounces every other week, it would help them avoid gaining some 2.3 million pounds a year.
Bloomberg has been instrumental in introducing a number of health measures in New York, including:
  • A ban on smoking in public places;
  • Forcing chain restaurants to post calories on their menus;
  • A ban on artificial trans fats in french fries and other restaurant food;
  • Promoting breast-feeding over formula.

Though the ban on super-sized cola does not take effect until March 2013, the big corporations have already declared their intention to fight the regulation.
"This is a political solution and not a health solution," said Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for an industry-sponsored group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, which claims to have gathered more than 250,000 signatures on petitions against the plan.
“This is not the end,” said Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for the group, after the vote. “We are exploring legal options, and all other avenues available to us.”

Only time will tell whether the initiative will bear the desired results and help New Yorkers lead healthier lives.

For sure, city officials, health experts around the nation, and beverage and restaurant industries will be closely how this pans out.

Do you think Michael Bloomberg is on the right track? Please leave your comments below.

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