Governor takes a sip of Bloomberg’s soda

Gov. John Hickenlooper drew swift rebuke from some folks last week for suggesting that ideas like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban super-size soft drinks may be necessary in the battle against obesity.

That’s no surprise, because Bloomberg’s plan has been roundly ridiculed across the county as being the epitome of the “nanny state.”

But the New York proposal and Hickenlooper’s measured remarks about it last week at a wellness conference in Aspen highlight the dilemma related to our obesity epidemic.

Few people want to see overbearing government nannies regulating every activity in our lives, from what we eat and drink to the sort of vehicles we drive and how much exercise we get.

This is, after all, a nation built on the premise of individual freedom and personal responsibility.

But relying on personal responsibility in diet the past few decades — combined with food companies’ excessive use of new food additives such as high-fructose corn syrup — has led to ever-expanding waistlines, skyrocketing rates of diabetes and other health problems.

And those health issues cost everyone, through programs like Medicare and Medicaid, decreasing the amount of money available for other public needs.

What’s an elected official to do?

Hickenlooper and his spokesman emphasized that the governor is not contemplating a Bloomberg-like large-soda ban in Colorado. But the governor left the door open a crack when he said, “And yet, if we don’t begin looking at certain things like that, the costs are going to be enormous.”

However, that comment also left him open to criticism from personal-liberty advocates.

“I would hope that the governor, who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, would worry more about taking away freedoms than promoting a nanny state,” said John Caldara, head of the Independence Institute in Golden.

Aside from giant sodas, just this month Hickenlooper signed a bill to ban trans fats from school lunches and school breakfasts, legislation that provoked derision from some conservatives, who argued that it represented government overstepping its boundaries.

The Daily Sentinel supported that legislation because we see no good reason for including unhealthy trans fats in children’s food, and there are cost-effective alternatives. We applaud the governor for signing the bill.

Also last week, Hickenlooper said he plans to unveil a broad wellness plan for the state later this year.

We look forward to seeing what ideas the governor has to offer, and how well they bridge the nanny state-personal liberty divide.


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