The Sweet Spot for Protest

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Dissent is one of American’s most dearly valued constitutional rights. And protest is one of the most common spectator sports. The latest protest to make its mark in New York City is aimed at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s fight against sugar-laced drinks—the kind that foster obesity when regularly consumed. The city’s health committee hearing to approve or reject Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas is convened today.

The New York Times writes:

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery stores or convenience stores.

Bloomberg has taken the big gulp. He wants to curtail the right of retailers to sell, and consumers to buy, sugar-laden drinks. So to counter this, New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, made up of individuals, businesses, and community organizations, has taken to the streets and airwaves. “We believe New York City residents and visitors should have the right to buy beverages in any size they choose,” they say. Of course, the bigger the drink, the more is spent. What’s more, sugar begets sugar, which begets fat.

Their campaign poster (above) makes it seem that an unalterable human right—the right to drink from bottles and cups over 16 ounces— is being usurped by a meddling government. But what’s to stop someone from buying three 8-ounce bottles (or other mathematical combinations)? The organization says, “If this now, what next?” Perhaps a ban against all foods that will cause harm? Civil liberties notwithstanding, has anyone really objected to the “sell by” labels on perishable foods and drinks? Or the restriction that minors cannot purchase alcohol? This is a nation of many dos and lots of donts, some of which make perfect sense.

.For more Steven Heller, check out the book Design Literacy—one of the many Heller titles available at