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September 14. 2012 12:30AM

The soda cops: NH could get them, too

The New York City board of health on Thursday banned the sale of sugar-sweetened sodas larger than 16 ounces from every establishment that receives a health inspection. The vote was 9-0. The punishment is a $200 fine. If you think such nanny-state nonsense cannot happen in New Hampshire, think again.

In 2006, then-Rep. Catherine Mulholland, D-Grafton, proposed a beverage tax. Her bill called it a “beverage fee to be paid by beverage manufacturers and distributors.” It was a tax not just on sodas, but on bottled milk and water. She also wanted to tax candy. The bill died, and Mulholland was defeated in 2010, but the idea did not vanish.

Grant Bosse at the Josiah Bartlett Center pointed out to us this spring that Mulholland is running for the Legislature again this year. On Tuesday she crushed her primary opponent 674-233. She is now the Democratic nominee for state representative in District 17.

The Republicans had their own candidate who had supported a beverage tax. In 2006, then-Sen. Dick Green, R-Rochester, proposed a tax on water-based beverages. Green left the Senate to run the Pease Development Authority, but this year he re-emerged to run in the Republican primary for the Senate seat he used to hold. He lost by 205 votes.

Legislators are not the only ones who have the urge to go overboard dictating food options. In Nashua, the city school system has been making a shift to healthier foods. Few would dispute the school district's authority to decide what foods are offered for sale by the school system for lunch and breakfast, or the wisdom in serving children healthy food. But Nashua's policy goes so far as to prohibit parents from bringing cupcakes to school for children's birthday parties, The Telegraph of Nashua reported on Thursday. The next obvious step: inspecting all brown-bagged lunches for cupcake contraband.

Obesity is not a “public health” problem. It is a personal health problem. You cannot contract it through the water supply or the air or another person's plate. People become obese either by their behavior or by problems specific to their own bodies. Restricting citizens' dietary options for the sole purpose of making them eat the way they “should” has nothing to do with “public health.” It is purely an exercise in petty dictatorship.

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