2013 tax filing season gets crazier for some H&R Block, TurboTax customers
Budget battles: two down, one (the president's) to go

NYC soda ban overturned. Would a soda tax have been better?

Honking big glasses of Coke, Pepsi and all other types of sugary beverages were no doubt raised in New York City Monday night, toasting a judge's decision to overturn the city's soda ban.

Twitter reaction to NYC sugary beverages ruling 031113

New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling ruled that the city's prohibition of sales of sugary drinks in sizes larger than 16 ounces, which had been scheduled to take effect today, was "arbitrary and capricious." 

The ruling will, of course, be appealed.

"We think the judge is totally in error in the way he interpreted the law and we're very confident that we will win on appeal," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference following the ruling.

Weighing obesity's costs: OK, Bloomberg is in his third term and running out of things to do. But I don't doubt that Bloomberg is sincere in his concern about the health problems posed by obesity.

He emphasized that Monday night when he appeared on Late Night With David Letterman.

"Seventy thousand people will die from obesity this year, five thousand in New York," he said. "For the first time, more people will die from overeating than undereating this year."

Overweight duo by Tobyotter via Flickr Hefty duo by Tobyotter via Flickr

Bloomberg also cited financial concerns. "Obesity is going to bankrupt this country because of the growing health care costs associated with the disease," he said.

Then, since Letterman's show ostensibly is a comedy program, Bloomberg tried to lighten the conversation a bit.

"It's incumbent on government to remind people of what they're doing to themselves so they can make wise decisions," Bloomberg said, "as long as you don't ban Cheez-Its."

Using taxes to shape behavior: Your attempt at levity, Mr. Mayor, underscores the problem with your proposed sugary beverage ban and similar sin taxes proposed by other governments.

Everyone has a vice and we all worry when ours might be on the banned or taxed list.

And as jurisdictions look to raise money -- and let's be honest; taxes on so-called sins are usually more about the money than the selected bad habit -- all sorts of things are potential tax targets.

We've already set levies on cigarettes, alcohol and even skin-cancer causing tanning.

But in most cases, unless the taxes are really big, we keep buying the products. That might have figured in Bloomberg's decision to ban the large-sized drinks instead of taxing them.

Still, Bloomberg might have been better off going with a tax, which he did consider before opting for the health board ban.

First, banning a product, especially a legal one, is a bit extreme. It plays right into the hands of those who characterize government regulation of personal choices as a nanny state mentality run amok.

Second, because of the pervasiveness of sin taxes, where at least some of the new revenue is used to pay for programs to ameliorate the taxed act's bad effects, a tax might have a better shot of surviving court challenges.

Third, while folks also would have objected to a sugary drink tax, they still would have the option to buy the product of their choice.

And New York then might have had a bit more money to put toward weight loss education and associated obesity programs.

You also might find these items of interest:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

NYC Body

Still don't know why it's called a soda ban - he never wanted to ban soda. I honestly misunderstood when I first heard about this story and ever since then have been annoyed by headlines and discussions where it's said that Bloomberg wanted to "ban sodas." It's misleading.

Spurwing Plover

Somone needs to tell this pompous old peacock that americans dont like having their lives controled or being told what to do by some arrogant old stuffed shirt wealthy spoiled little brat



The comments to this entry are closed.