It didn't take long for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has been on the warpath against obesity, to create buzz around his plans for a ban on banning the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces at cinemas, restaurants and other "service" outlets in Gotham.
Hizzoner barely had time to tweet messages such as, "Obesity kills thousands of NYers a year & adds $4 billion a year in health care costs," and, "Public health officials across America talk about fighting obesity. In NYC, we DO something about it," before one of the biggest brand targets of his proposed move, Coca-Cola, lashed back at the Bloomberg-spurred Department of Health proposal.
"The people of New York are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes," Coca-Cola's statement said. "We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exaclty how many calories are in every beverage we serve. New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this."
Coke's statement concluded, "They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate."
Of course, citizens "deserving better" was why Bloomberg said that he proposed the ban in the first place, after a proposed soda tax flopped and graphic shock tactic advertising campaign failed to move the needle on his public health goals.
"I think that's what the public wants the mayor to do," he said, referring to himself in the third person, in an interview with the New York Times. This is the same Michael Bloomberg, by the way, who in 2003 signed a deal making Snapple New York City's first official corporate marketing partner with a five-year vending and marketing agreement that put its beverages into NYC schools. Presumably Snapple was OK because it's plenty sugary but not carbonated, as soft drinks are.
But it's a new day and Bloomberg has decided that mandating portion and packaging size will curb consumption of sugary drinks from NYC's street carts to McDonald's, although there's nothing to stop determined soda guzzlers from ordering, say, two medium size beverages.
Undeterred, Bloomberg told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that he is proposing outlawing the sale of a very common size of soft drink, beginning as soon as next March. We're not talking Big Gulps here — but, rather, the size of a medium cup of coffee.
The nanny-state overreach made for many interesting scenes and commentaries already on Thursday. For example, on MSNBC's Morning Joe today, co-host Mika Brzezinski sang the praises of Bloomberg's proposed ban. "I think it's a great idea," she gushed. "Does anyone want to challenge me on that?"
But no one had to — Brzezinski undercut her own point by hoisting, very visibly on the set, a large Starbucks-sponsored drink. (Does anybody think it was just a big cup of plain black coffee?)
Lately, Coke, PepsiCo and other beverage-industry allies have been trying hard to make their case for freedom to sell their goods. Among many millions of dollars in efforts, the American Beverage Association recently plastered the New York subway system with posters about how its members are providing New Yorkers with all the beverage choices they could possibly want.
It's only the third inning of what could be a long contest between the do-gooder mayor and everyone who enjoys a Slurpee. In the meantime, the debate will continue.