business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that the move by the New York City Board of Health - prompted by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg - to limit the sale of jumbo sugared soft drinks in the city - was heard by the State Court of Appeals this week. The Times notes that this is the final chance for the ban to survive, having been struck down by a lower court last year.

However, the case is seen as something about far more than large-sized soft drinks. Here's how the Times frames the real issue:

"Health advocates and legal experts say they are less concerned about the fate of two-liter Coca-Cola bottles than something more consequential: how far local governments can go to protect the health of their citizens.

"The American soft-drink industry, in suing to stop the plan, contended that the city’s Board of Health — which banned lead paint in 1959 and once cleared slums to prevent the spread of cholera — went beyond its powers in trying to regulate the size of sugary drinks, saying the board should be restricted to narrower concerns, like eradicating diseases.

"That argument, if upheld, could limit the role of mayors and public health agencies to influence consumer behavior. And it would rewrite the role of New York City’s Board of Health, an obscure but powerful agency that has been a national leader in creating policies intended to encourage healthier habits, like banning trans fats from restaurants and posting calorie counts on menus."
KC's View:
I've always felt that government's biggest role should be in mandating transparency - making sure that companies are upfront and honest about the products they sell, so that consumer make informed and intelligent decisions, if they so choose.

I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that there are times when government overreaches. But we live in a time when it is seen by some as a negative when government steps in to save people's lives by regulating the tobacco business, or banning lead paint, or making sure that calorie counts are easily accessible to consumers. But it seems to me that these are critical functions of government.