Wrong approach to serious problem

Our View
Mar. 18, 2013 @ 07:02 AM

A lower court judge has ruled that New York City cannot ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces as arbitrary and capricious.

He should have added that the ban is wrong-headed and doomed to fail just like every other attempt to control human behavior through prohibition.

Consider how well Prohibition itself worked: Alcohol was banned in January of 1919 and just 15 years later the nation realized the consequences of Prohibition were worse than the problems it was trying to solve.

The War on Drugs has lasted longer, but with no greater effect. Anyone who wants illegal drugs can get them with relative ease most anywhere in the U.S.

So if New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others are so concerned about the costs and effects of obesity, they should spend more time educating the public about the health impact of too much sugar instead of trying to take it away.

When confronted with the reality of their unhealthy choices, Americans can and do respond. Consumer demand — not regulations — has fast-food joints serving meals with less fat. Smoking is at an all time low as the health conscious have become more aware of its deadly effects.

The same can work with unhealthy eating habits.

And for those who can’t or won’t respond to the carrot, the proper stick is to make them take responsibility for their choices. Charge more for health insurance for those who are overweight, but give them a chance to avoid the charge if they modify their behavior and begin a documented exercise program. Create a set of circumstances that encourages good choices, and then let everyone decide for themselves: Is a Big Gulp worth an extra thousand or two a year for health insurance?

And for those who decide that it is, well then the rest of us need to accept that people are entitled to make bad choices if they are willing to pay the consequences.

That, after all, is freedom.