Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on sugary drinks is good for you, New York, and for the rest of the country, too.
And here’s something else, a guaranteed wager: Winston Smith, the suffering protagonist in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eight-Four,” would trade every aspect of the society dreamed up for him by the sadistic totalitarian government in place of a ban on sugary drinks in 16-ounce cups any day.
There I said it. I know the sentiment is unpopular. I know people will fear the ramifications of a ban on that black bubbling cola in their plastic Big Gulps because they believe it is the road to bigger restrictions on more of their choices. It won’t.
We are a nation of fatties. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, more than one-third of United States adults -- 35.7 percent -- are obese. And obesity is expensive.
Medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion in 2008, the CDC noted. And for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. While sugary drinks like soda and fruit drinks are not the only culprit here, it is a fact that people are consuming these beverages at an alarming rate. Something needs to be done.
I mention Orwell because his name has been used everywhere as an analogy to the proposed ban -- in the muddy print of some opinion columns and on the sticky lips of pundits and those who cannot foresee the benefit of giving people better choices for their health.
The numbers don't lie. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. According to the Surgeon General of the United States, an estimated 300,000 deaths per year may be attributed to obesity; The American Diabetes Association reported that in 2007, diabetes contributed to a total of 231,404 deaths.
On Friday, Bloomberg joined the John Gambling show, the morning show I produce, as he usually does for an hour every Friday, following the precedent former Mayor Rudy Giuliani set 15 years ago as a way to answer questions and chat with New Yorkers.
Over the last five years, I’ve gotten to know the man. My impressions are few, but pointed: He is a quiet, focused man with a dry, sometimes hysterical, sense of humor. More important, he cares more about people than he does his approval rate.
After Friday’s show, Bloomberg was willing to field some of my questions, namely: What does he believe is the reason people pull away from, and fear, the potential ordinances he has (and wants) to propose.
He paused, and then said:
"There is always some resistance to change. Each time the city introduced an innovative public health initiative, from posting calorie counts to smoke-free bars and restaurants to banning transfats, there were naysayers. But each has become a model for the nation and nobody would dream of turning back the clock. The fact that New Yorkers have a greater life expectancy than the rest of the nation says more than any words can."
Strip the politics away from that.
He is talking about you and me. He’s talking about a better and healthier people living here, in one of the most important cities in the country. The city I love. Think about going to a bar and having to be a part of a smoke-filled atmosphere again. Take it back further and consider the allowance of smoking in airplanes. No one, not even a smoker, would rally to have that reinstituted. This idea follows in the same vein.
Bloomberg’s attempt to educate the public about what is in its healthy “interests,” as he said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” is anything but Orwellian. Come on. Common sense is the key here, kids.
When I was 10 or 11, my brother and I would play basketball in our local park, drinking Coca-Cola throughout the afternoon, sold under the slogan: “Coke adds life. It’s the Real Thing.” Imagine that today. Quenching your children’s parched throats – or even those considering having children -- with some kind of soda after a day of sports.
If you have a rebuttal to that, you need a drink. And not a soda either.
Mike Figliola is executive producer of The John Gambling Show on WOR Radio 710 AM in New York City. He is a resident of Queens. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikefigs.