Alright, I know that soda is quite evil. As a student of public health, nutrition, and exercise, I know that consuming liquid calories has effects on satiety that may lead to weight gain. I was even part of the generation that, in elementary school, put teeth in glasses of soda and chronicled how quickly they dissolved for our science fair projects.
And, in general, I think New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's public health initiatives to ban trans fats in restaurants and require calorie counts on menus have been intelligent ways to grapple with the problem of overweight.
But I believe his latest salvo in the war on fatness is somewhat misguided. He's asked the US Department of Agriculture to stop New York City residents who receive food stamps from using them to buy soda or other sugared beverages.
Yes, it's true that there are other things that aren't eligible to be bought with food stamps, like alcohol and hot, prepared foods. But it seems pretty paternalistic to give money to people to help them buy groceries, then turn around and tell them, "Oh, that's not healthy. You can't use the government's money to buy that." It seems like just another way to cause shame to those who don't quite have the means these days to put food on the table.
And it sets sort of a precedent. If we can make low-income people ineligible to buy soda with food stamps, let's also stop them from buying high-fat meats like hamburger or maybe they can only use food stamps for skim milk, not whole milk.
Look, if Bloomberg wants to ban sodas from New York City, I'm all for it. But to put a public health measure into place that is punitive to only one socioeconomic strata of people, well, not even my Center-for-Science-in-the-Public-Interest-lovin' heart can go along with that. But I'd love to hear what you think. Agree? Disagree?