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Jeff Ward: Wheaton's Mayor Weighs In on New York's Soft Drink Ban

The nanny state is coming to get us, whether we like it or not!

So I called Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk and asked him the question we’ve all been dying to ask: Considering Illinois’ infamous fourth-place ranking in the national childhood obesity race, would he consider following in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s draconian footsteps by endeavoring to ban supersize soft drinks?

I’m sure you’ve all heard about our infamous Gotham City head honcho who, in order to gain a slim foothold in the battle of the bulge, proposed a ban on any restaurant or movie-theater soda container larger than 16 ounces.

My first thought was, just because they can’t say “supersize it,” how’s that gonna stop 'em from ordering two—or three? I’m convinced it’s that kind of logical thinking that keeps me from becoming a successful politician.

Of course, Bloomberg was responding to the anti-obesity advocates and dieticians who’ve launched an all-out offensive against soda pop, claiming it’s the primary scourge in an obesity epidemic that, for the first time in our history, threatens to render our children’s life spans shorter than ours.

And they’re right—beverages like Coke and Pepsi are really nasty stuff. There’s absolutely no nutritional benefit to soft drinks, and just one 12-ounce can per day can translate into a pound per month weight gain and a massive 83 percent greater risk of developing diabetes.

Even the diet stuff is terrible. Nutrasweet breaks down in your body as formaldehyde and, per my wife’s college biology book, soda is 10,000 times more acidic than water. That means bad teeth, damaged kidneys, weakened bones and even cirrhosis of the liver!

This controversial Big Gulp ban is just the latest salvo in a long line of proposed soft-drink taxes and legislation that, for a brief time, even included the possibility of a federal soda surcharge as part of the president’s health care reform bill.

What?! A die-hard Republican and Godless Democrat actually agreed on something? Maybe things really do go better with Coke! I get teary eyed just thinkin’ about it.

As you might imagine, the Republican Bloomberg was immediately accosted by folks accusing him of creating a “nanny state,” the irony of which made me laugh so hard that my soy milk nearly shot out my nose.

But when you take the time to think about it, perhaps our illustrious Big Apple burgermeister might just be on to something. Perhaps he’s only paying heed to his newly found conservative tendencies, because isn’t our expanding waistline epidemic really nothing more than another case of blatant of socialism?

For example, obese people take 66 percent more sick days than their normal weighted co-workers who are left to pick up the slack. CNN just ran a story about shrinking airline seats causing confrontations between overweight fliers who want the armrest up and those who want their space.

If your seatmate has to subsidize your flight, isn’t that a form of welfare?

Through Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government currently pays half the nation’s obesity related health care costs, or about $45 billion a year. That means the average American has to shell out 180 tax dollars a year just to cover our overweight co-citizens.

Last Tuesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center announced, if left unchecked, the obesity epidemic will consume 20 percent of the GDP by 2020, and when the national obesity rate hits the 42 percent mark in 2030, it will bankrupt the country.

But back to Mayor Gresk and his excellent response to my question!

“No! We would not,” he replied, “While I could see a supersize soft drink ban fall within the broad framework of a health and welfare issue, we have so many other immediate issues we need to deal with that this would not be one of our priorities.

“I don’t fault Mayor Bloomberg for doing it,” Gresk added. “But devoting city staff and resources to enforcement, I don’t see us doing that. This is a time of decreasing revenues, and a soft-drink ban would fall much further down the list, long after fire, police, water, roads and parks.”

And I absolutely loved the mayor’s conclusion: “I would call for personal responsibility. Do you really need to supersize it? Less can be more in certain situations.”

I may just have to move to Wheaton! (That’ll teach the mayor to talk to me.)

Mayor Gresk also noted that he wasn’t surprised his big-city counterpart took this tack, because his son had received a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and the man who funded their public health school is none other than Michael Bloomberg, who has more money than God.

I certainly want to thank Mayor Gresk for taking the time to talk with me and, in the end, I don’t think Mayor Bloomberg really means it. He knows this kind of ban has about as much chance of standing up in court as a French fry has of making it through a Weight Watchers meeting unscathed.

Given the fact he founded a media company and is a master at playing the press, I think his real motive was to get folks like me to get folks like you to start talking about it.

So the $64,000 question is this: Do we really want to ignore a killer nanny?

If we stick our heads in the sand in an effort to avoid a "nanny state" at all costs, the nanny state simply will reach around and grab us where it counts.

By the love handles, that is.

Dan June 09, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Rumor has it the all you can eat venues will soon be changing to all you SHOULD eat.
Dr.Mullick June 09, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Jeff; My mission is to save lives by prevention.Facts: At age 13,for Eagle Scouts project-we (media,local police,local senator,our Boy Scout group) launched a campaign to avoid driving while drunk for 1984 New Year eve. NO life lost. At Cleveland Clinic--did research on Cancer Biomarker-to detect Cancer-received ACG governor's award in 2002. Upon arrival in Kane County-Geneva,Il.-offered Painless Colon Cancer screening. Did you know that people over 50 have Polyps in Colon which are source of Colon Cancer? Dr.OZ told Larry King on CNN that Colon Cancer is preventable.He had a precancerous polyp. 50,000 deaths in USA-- 5-14 deaths every day in Illinois from Colon Cancer are preventable-if these people go for timely screening.Even with Katie Couric's efforts--Colon Screening rate is 50%--far lower than Breast Cancer screening which is close to 90% with Susan Komen organization efforts in each community. I am a Volunteer doctor for GET YOUR REAR IN GEAR .We are trying to prevent Colon Cancer deaths.We need community media's help to communicate that 1 out of 4 above 50 years old have polyps that must be reomoved ASAP. Please Help.
Jeff Ward June 09, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Dan, Now, that would be something. Kind of like the Soup Nazi - "No cake for you!" Jeff
Pat E. June 10, 2012 at 12:35 AM
It's just impossible to have a criterion reference based assessment of public policy. It would be great if we could use BMI, but it is flawed. It doesn't take into account muscle mass. I just wish people would move more and eat less!
bobrzik August 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I'd hardly call Mayor Bloomberg a diehard Republican. (I know this article is almost three months old, but I just saw it)

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