We’ve written before on this blog about Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drink ban in NYC – about its potential unintended consequences and about the total overreach of government in attempting to apply such a ban at all.  But the ban finally comes into effect next week, and the New York Times has looked at how the new regulations are going to affect coffee drinkers.  It’s confusing – so bad, in fact, that Dunkin’ Donuts is handing out information cards to try to explain the changes to customers.

Lattes are exempt, regardless of calories, because they’re mostly milk.  But no one’s sure about frappuccinos, which are 60% ice.  Baristas can’t add very much sugar to a beverage, but customers can take two steps to a kiosk in the store and add their own extra sugar or syrup (talk about messy!).  And artificial sweetener’s fine.  Some drinks are being resized; others are being dropped from menus altogether.

All those changes for businesses have associated costs – retraining baristas on the new rules, setting up new counters for customers to add their own sugar, reprinting menus.  How much did Dunkin’ spend on the information cards?  And it’s going to lead to confusion for customers and slow down the morning coffee routine.  And the health benefits are questionable at best.  If you can just add your own extra sugar, what’s the point?  The whole thing is a big, complicated, confusing, frustrating mess.  Which is typical when the government overreaches and tries to regulate in areas where it should really just let the market take care of itself.

Coffee shops already offer skim milk, soy milk, sugar free syrups, toppings that can be added or not – near endless variations.  A lot of customers want to make healthy choices, and the market already allows them to do so in a way that works well for businesses and customers alike, with nothing like the confusion of the mayor’s ban.