Unfortunately, TIME magazine has put their “Bitter Pill” article on lockdown, so unless I can find a copy elsewhere online, my commentary has come to an end. That said, there is plenty of other news in the public health world to comment on. Certainly by now you’ve all heard that the New York City “soda ban” has been struck down in court. I don’t know the details of the soda ban, but I can’t say I’m surprised as it sounds like the rules are a little arbitrary, not to mention that taxes have been shown to be a far greater behavioral incentive. But a friend forwarded an article to me about the “Anti-Bloomberg Bill” that was recently passed by the Mississippi legislature.
The bill essentially says that counties and towns would not be able to enact rules requiring posting of calorie counts, capping meal portion sizes, or keeping toys out of kids’ meals. These decisions would be left solely to the discretion of the state. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Gregory Holloway (D), claims that the goal is to make nutritional standards consistent across the state. The bill garnered wide spread bipartisan support in Mississippi, and was also heavily supported by the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association as well as small business and beverage associations. By the way, Mississippi happens to be the state with the highest percentage of overweight and obese people in the nation.
To me, this bill really gets to a much larger issue – should the role of safeguarding the public’s health reside only at the state level or should local municipalities play a role as well. The Kaiser article argues that this bill actually flies in the face of what Mississippian holds dear – the right to govern themselves. Certainly, state governments should be setting a minimum standard or “maintaining the floor” so to speak. But the question here really is, should the state also be creating the ceiling or should it allow local governments to shoot for the moon?