Prohibition and the Soft Drink Ban

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to more interested in “protecting the public’s health” than doing anything about unemployment or poverty. But I will not debate the issues of poverty and unemployment in this case. What I find ludicrous is a proposed ban by the mayor against sugary drinks 16 ounces or more. The argument Bloomberg has against such soft drinks, especially in bigger containers, is that they have too much sugar. Fair enough, I know such soft drinks in super-sized containers have too much sugar. I have no argument with that logic. But Bloomberg wants to pass an ordinance that will effectively ban such large drinks served by restaurants to the public and that soft drinks should have “less sugar” than before.

I wonder if Bloomberg has never heard about diet soft drinks? I have a problem from any local government trying to ban anything in particular to food and telling people what is healthy and what is not. This experiment was actually attempted on a much greater scale with alcohol in 1919 with the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment is the only one that ever was placed into the constitution that put in place a moral ban on what people could and could not eat and drink. Alcohol was banned throughout the United States, and essentially it did lead to a decline in alcohol consumption. But organized crime found alcohol as a real cash crop and began to not only create unsafe, bootlegged alcohol drinks but also places to serve alcohol and huge import networks on how to get alcohol from outside the United States.

There was no way the U.S. government could stop the alcohol flood into this country, and in the end it provided organized crime with tens of millions of dollars in un-taxed revenue (worse, it provided plenty of incentive for turf wars that saw literally gun battles in all major cities between gangland bosses). In the end, Prohibition was lifted in 1934. In my view, a ban on soft drinks in any size simply gives organized crime a nice little cash crop that so many people will want. Such things will be unregulated, and frankly it will not make people drink and think any healthier than they did before. Besides, there is the rest of New York state and the rest of the United States where New York City residents can go to to get soft drinks in whatever size they want. Trying to force people to live healthier lives has never worked and will never work anywhere. Bloomberg should have better things to do than try and recreate a social control that failed some time ago.

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