Hail Mayor Mike and the paper cups that will not runneth over

Uh-huh, you bet, there you go, have a nice day, no problem at all, sir. With all the legendary courtesy of the American catering industry, the white-hatted staff were piling each plate with enough calories to feed a family of Eritreans for a week. There were barons of beef, swaddled in ribbons of delicious yellow fat. The bed of the Atlantic had been denuded to provide the tails – just the tails – of a thousand lobsters. It was a kind of gastronomic United Nations: here the Mexican enchiladas, there the Chinese chop suey, and everything served on an all-you-can-eat basis, where all-you-can-eat turns out to be a very large quantity indeed.

So far, it would be fair to say that New York and London have responded in much the same way. We all champion healthier eating; we sing the praises of vegetables; we wag our fingers at cheeseburgers; we extol the benefits of exercise. Kate Hoey has done wonders with her grassroots sports programme, aimed at rousing inactive kids and adults from the sofa.

New York is next month installing a cycle hire scheme, modelled on London’s, in the hope of getting people out of their cars. But now Mike Bloomberg is going a stage further. Mike is a businessman turned politician, but he began as a scientist, with a training in physics.

As he puts it, you cannot get around the laws of thermodynamics, and if you eat more than your body burns, you will get fatter. That is why he is asking the New York Health Board – which he effectively controls – to approve a ban on soft drink cups larger than 16 ounces. If you want to drink more than 16 ounces of Sprite or Coke or Dr Pepper, you will be perfectly at liberty to do so: but you will have to buy more than one cup. And he quotes all sorts of tests that show human beings will generally eat what is put in front of them. If you put more in front of them, they will eat more; if you reduce the size of the portion, they will eat less.

It sounds, on the face of it, like a pretty hysterical piece of nanny-statery. Mike Bloomberg has appeared to cast himself in the role of Mr Bumble the beadle, denouncing all those kids who have the effrontery to ask for more. As you can imagine, the proposal is the butt of plenty of jokes on TV shows, and a rabid reaction from Big Soda: an indignant Coca-Cola has been on the phone from Atlanta.

For those of us who are instinctively libertarian, it is all a bit difficult – at least philosophically. But never mind the philosophy; what about the practical effects? This is the same Bloomberg, after all, whose smoking ban was also derided, and then imitated around the world. His action against smoking is now seen as a big step in reducing a particularly nasty addiction that had claimed the lives of millions. Across the West, we are seeing a falling away in the number of cancers contracted, a fall in the number of deaths. If we could reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, and release some children from the captivity of fatness, might that not be worth exploring?

By next April, we will have a new and improved anti-obesity strategy in London, and yes, we will look at the practicality of Bloomberg’s ideas. In the meantime, I think we should pay tribute to the continuing boldness of the Mayor of New York. He has been a public official for longer than Obama. He has run a corporation far bigger than Romney’s. He is the 11th richest man in the US, with wealth of $22 billion, and yet he still cares about the size of paper cups and childhood obesity. There is still time for him to change his mind and go for the White House. Bloomberg for President!

3 thoughts on “Hail Mayor Mike and the paper cups that will not runneth over”

  1. Boris another disgrace at heathrow customs T5 last might a 2 hour wait for non EU visitors and we are still a month from the Olympics. Only pne or two booths open What a joke!

  2. First of all i would like to say that i am happy to see that you have again reinstated the comment system. Although i am disappointed that the regular commenters do not seem to be commenting as before.

    Secondly, is Bloomberg being serious? So reducing the cup size of soft drinks is magically going to rid the world of obestity to borrow a phrase from ole boris ‘rhubarb’.

    If people are going to lose weight they are going to lose it in their own time. Installing socialist ideals controlling the size of drinks available is absolutley ridiculos. What will be next? Are they going to impose a law dictating how many chips you are allowed to serve in fast food resturants ? Honestly things like this make me laugh.

    The way to cope with obesity (by the way anyone half a stone over the recommended weight is apparently obese these days) is to make fresh fruit and veg cheaper however, to ask a government to reduce the tax upon any item is of course blashphemy (cough cough) . Most people buy the cheap frozen stuff like chips and burgers because they simply cannot afford the rest.

    Do you really think that people survive off of fast food constantly. Does it really make a difference how big a drink you buy when you are only doing it on occasion? Perhaps mr bloomberg should consider passing a law in fast food resturants to regulate the amount of salt that they put on the chips so the customers arent so thirsty??? Oh no wait that would damage profit would it not?

    On top of this i am sure with a bike program could say goodbye to the word obesity forevermore…. can you sense the sarcasm in the room???

    Childhood obesity needs to be tackled by parents we need to send children out to play instead of letting them lounge around the house playing video games or sticking them infront of the tv. After all it worked years ago did it not?

    Finally @Brendan

    I think your slightly off topic there dont you?

  3. Beg to differ: I think that good intentions do not allow exceptions to personal freedom or to any other principle. Au contrarie: it is exactly when you have good intentions that you are supposed to hold on to your principles and beliefs.

    Doing people good down their throats is in the root of every totalitarism.

    (Besides that, cheers from São Paulo, Brazil. We will have a mayor election in October and it is regrettable that we do not have anybody that compares to Boris in terms of sincerety, background and good humour! Come to think of it, we lack conservatives – our disputes are always settled just among left-wingers).

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