Almost no one outside New York City government and health advocates engaged in social experimentation thought a ban on some drink sizes for New York City made any sense or would actually do any good. 

Soda companies were obviously against it. They would prefer not to be demonized in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest culture war. Small businesses were against it, since a ton of products sold by large companies like Starbucks and McDonald's were somehow exempted. Movie theaters were against it, since overpriced giant sizes of popcorn and drinks are part of the experience (and a lot of the profit).

Advocates for the poor, primarily minorities, argued it was targeted at them.  No, no, the government and its advocates responded, the law is for their protection and evil Big Business is the target.   It is fat people we are going after, they said, and since we are going to be paying for their health care because we love them we are going to tell them whether or not they can drink a 15 ounce or 17 ounce soda. But wasn't income linked to obesity in all kinds of sociology papers?  Indeed it has been, and fat people get blamed for global warming too. Fat people are okay to stereotype and criminalize, but not poor people.  Unless they are the same group in which case...well, who knows?

New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling struck down the law as "arbitrary and capricious" - for obvious reasons. What is so scientifically special about 16 ounces? Why are 12 ounce drinks that are 50% sugar scientifically okay but a 20 ounce soda that is 25% sugar is banned? Why are milkshakes exempt? And Starbucks?  And Smoothies? If the self-control of fat people is the problem why allow free refills? Why exempt alcohol? It seems to be no different than going after "the number of doughnuts a person could eat, the number of scoops of ice cream" and number of pieces of fried chicken people could eat, Justice David Friedman said during oral arguments at appeals court last week.

But social authoritarians are not going down without a fight and it was a given that somewhere someone woudl write a paper showing why this social authoritarian ban is not only right, it is essential. Columbia University to the rescue.(1) Columbia is located in, of course, New York City.  And who is one of the department chairs at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, where the group which wrote the paper co-exists? Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, a member of the New York City Board of Health - the same Board which rubber-stamped the restrictions on soda size and who gushed, "This is an important study. It provides critical foundational evidence that the proposed efforts to restrict marketing of large sodas in New York City and elsewhere can have a substantial impact on population health."

Study, huh? The paper used surveys (naturally) but didn't even use all of the survey data. Looking at all records from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in the years 2007-2010 wouldn't be meaningful - while lots of people drink soda they don't do it often enough to merit a law and a whole bunch of new government employees to enforce it, which would seem to be an argument against government control - so they narrowed down the results to 19,147 people who matched the 'demographic' of the people who need to have soda banned for them. Basically, they profiled them.

Here's the funny part; they conclude that they are certain the law will work, that people will become less obese, but rightly note that it is impossible to know how much consumption of sugary beverages will change unless the ban is enacted. They are sure it will work but don't know whether or not it will work unless they try it.  What health benefit do they project will happen with this blanket ban (except for all those exceptions) and all of the costs that go with it? Teenagers might consume 58 fewer calories per day. 

It's funny because everyone knows rich, white people in Manhattan don't drink this stuff. Link:

It's no surprise poor people in New York City get frustrated with the government supposedly helping them. They got told by numerous sociology papers that obesity was related to income, which is a nice, exculpatory concept that absolves them of any responsibility, but now they are told it is not income at all, it is that they can't be responsible for themselves and should have to pay more for soda.  Low income causes obesity but make lower income people even poorer and they'll be less obese.

New York City advocates say they need this ban because 650,000 adult New Yorkers are now living with diabetes, an increase of 44 percent since 2002. Well, that can't be due to the trans fats they used to blame for people being fat.  They banned those in 2006 and mainstream media has been gushing about how much healthier NYC people are due to it - over 10% lower than the national average. So New York City people are simultaneously in the middle of a runaway health epidemic while being much healthier due to previous bans.

So in summary; income is linked to obesity (and therefore minority status) unless poor minority people feel targeted, then obesity is not linked to income, it is only linked to soda sizes. And the trans fat ban worked miracles for the health of New York City people unless it didn't and diabetes is a runaway epidemic due to 17 ounce sodas. 

In the world of progressive social authoritarianism, black can be white and cows can whinny and upside down is back and forth, because somewhere someone will find some survey data that can be anything you want.  And the exorbitant cost of this law will do nothing except maybe cut 1 lb. of weight every 2.5 months, assuming fat teenagers don't get one of those free refills or get 58 calories somewhere else  - but regardless of any benefit other than hypothetical, it is essential this new law be passed, say academics on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, because the commoners need help.

Here's hoping those New York judges don't read junk science outside Columbia, like Mark Bittman at the New York Times. They may decide to ban all products that contain sugar too.

(1) Y Claire Wang and Seanna M Vine, 'Caloric effect of a 16-ounce (473-mL) portion-size cap on sugar-sweetened beverages served in restaurants', Am J Clin Nutr August 2013 ajcn.054833; first published online June 12, 2013, doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.054833