Thursday, March 28, 2013
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the court decision striking down New York City's ban on certain sugary drinks sold in large containers. It seems that Mississippi has taken quite a different course than that recommended by Mayor Bloomberg of New York.
On March 21st, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a law preventing counties, districts, and towns from enacting rules that limit portion sizes. This bill has been dubbed by the state as the “Anti-Bloomberg” bill. The Governor opined that the bill was intended to limit the role of government, and that it “is not the role of the government to microregulate citizens’ dietary decisions.” The Governor added that “[t]he responsibility for one’s personal health depends on individual choices about a proper diet and appropriate exercise.”
Interestingly enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011 approximately 34.9% of Mississippi’s adult population was obese, which was the highest rate of obesity in the nation. Gov. Bryant countered with studies that show Mississippi’s obesity rate among children has dropped by 13.3% from 2005 to 2011. What the Governor failed to mention was that despite this drop, Mississippi still ranks among the top six states in the nation for obesity among high-school students, with approximately 16% being obese.
Mike Cashon, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, which lobbied for the Mississippi bill, reportedly opined that “It doesn’t prevent local government from promoting health foods. What it does do is prevent them from creating policy mandates for the sake of consistency and uniformity.” Arguably, this bill also keeps one of the largest profit sources in play for the restaurant and hospitality industry. Non-alcoholic beverages cost restaurants between $0.05 and $0.20 per serving, while reaping charges of $2.00 or more. In fact, the paper cup used to serve a soft drink costs more than the soda itself.
I am grateful to Jeffrey Enquist, U of Utah 3L and Biolaw Center fellow, for providing me with this post.