I have become part of the tap water generation. I gave up soda a week before Lent began and I’m over the withdrawal symptoms. Maybe. Sort of.
Okay, I’m dying for a large soda brewed in Atlanta. Caffeine, sugar, fizz, it’s great stuff, and terribly addicting.
I debated started smoking just to give my hands something to do other than reach for another 20-ounce bottle. Fortunately, I have discovered the miracle of the lemon. I just slice a lemon, place it in a glass, and then refill the glass with tap water as needed. Conveniently, I am now immune to scurvy.
I’m a trendsetter, apparently. According to the Associated Press, the American love affair with the sugary drink is waning. Americans now drink an average of 44 gallons of soda a year. That sounds like a lot (okay, it is a lot), but that’s down 17 percent from 1998.
When soda was at its peak in 1998, Americans were drinking 58 gallons of soda per year. They were only drinking 42 gallons of water.
Americans now drink about 58 gallons of water every year. Of that, 21 gallons come from a bottle, and they don’t mean whiskey bottles.
Times have changed and people are thinking healthier. This is a good trend for the most part. But the down side of the healthy trend is that some people just can’t leave other people to make their own choices.
One of the leading national scolds is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg actually got the city to ban large sugary drinks over 16 ounces. The ban was supposed to take effect on Tuesday.
Bloomberg explained recently that he was not trying to "ban" anything, but the city was engaging in "portion control." Control is the important word.
On Face the Nation, Bloomberg said, "All we are doing in New York is reminding you that it’s not in your interest to have too many empty calories. You can have some. If you want to have 32 ounces, just buy two 16-ounce, ah, um, cups and take them back to your seat."
It’s totally your choice, he said. However, "It’s called portion control. It’s a typical way that companies use and governments use to explain to people what’s in their interest and what isn’t."
In the immortal words of Norm Peterson from Cheers, "I already have a mother, lush face."
Americans are already making choices to switch away from soda. If they want to indulge in a Lake Michigan-sized sugar water special at the movie theater, why should the government engage in "portion control?"
Surely the government has better things to do. Has crime and poverty been eradicated in New York City? Are there still more rats than people?
But on a more fundamental level, do we really want government lecturing us and deciding for us how much soda we should be drinking? At some point, isn’t there a level of personal responsibility that is left to the individual? If I change my mind about my health choices and take a cola intravenous drip, shouldn’t I be the one to decide?
A judge in New York has overturned the ban, at least temporarily. New Yorkers can enjoy the freedom of a jumbo soda until an appeals court rules that the ban on large-sized soft drinks is allowed.
However, we should not be relying upon the courts to overturn stupid, personally invasive laws. We should have the sense to elect leaders that recognize that if their fellow citizens want a 64-ounce soda, it’s really nobody else’s business.
Bloomberg does not have the sense that anything is beyond the control of government if he deems it good. New Yorkers elected him, and in the immortal words of the late Ed Koch, now they must be punished.
The rest of us are spared the government making our "portion control" choices for us, for a while. Unfortunately, as the government takes over health care and we all pay the taxes for everyone’s health care, the soda choice (and the cheeseburger choice, and the French fry choice) will be everyone else’s business.
In 1773, Boston residents threw tea into the harbor to protest. In 1985 people across the country poured New Coke into the sewers to protest the change in formula. Nearly 30 years later buying a 64-ounce soda may soon become a revolutionary act.