By now most people have heard that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing that the city government ban sugared soft drinks sold at restaurants that come in larger than 16 oz. servings. No surprise really, there seems to be no freedom that Bloomberg is not willing to restrict in order to impose his vision of a healthy society on the citizens of New York. No one should be allowed to sit down and drink more than 16 oz. of coke or Pepsi at once. In fact to serve someone more than that should be a criminal offense. Well no one will ever accuse Bloomberg of having libertarian tendencies. But the fact is that it seems very likely that the restaurants are the ones who really stand to benefit from this. Admittedly I have not seen data on this but it is my experience that people who go into a fast food restaurant and order a super sized drink often do so with the intention of sharing with someone else. For example, a mom takes her kids into a McDonalds and orders the largest soda size on the menu so that she doesn’t have to buy individual smaller drinks for each of her kids, which would be more expensive. As my daughter was growing it was almost always the case that when we went into a fast food restaurant we would buy one super-sized drink and the three of us would share it. I believe that this is common practice for lots of families and even lots of couples when dining at fast food restaurants. So what happens if the super sized drinks are banned? Instead of people buying and sharing the 22 or 24 oz cups they now will have to buy two or more 16 oz or smaller size servings.

This is where the potential for a bootleggers and Baptist alliance exists. Again, it is only my speculation, but I think it is a reasonable one, that it is more profitable for a fast food restaurant to sell two or more smaller sized drinks than it is to sell one of the larger super-sized drinks, just as those families who might purchase the one larger size instead of the two smaller sizes do so because it saves them money.  The point is that, while the industry in general is speaking out against the ban, the fact is that by encouraging people to buy more, not less soda they might ultimately profit from the ban. So it may not be surprising to hear the the owner of a number of Applebees in the NY area state his opposition to the ban on the grounds it might be a slippery slope not because he has a problem with the ban per se. and he concludes by saying that “I do see some justification for it. Obesity is a major problem. Health care costs are going through the roof. And at the end of the day we end up paying for it in taxes.”

By the way, if you need an explanation for the Baptists and Bootleggers reference see this post.