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Benjamin Lesczynski, 8, of New York, takes a sip of a Big Gulp while protesting the proposed soda-ban that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested, outside City Hall in New York July 9, 2012. Under the proposed law, sugar drinks with no nutritional value would be banned from sale in New York in containers larger than 16 ounces (454 grams).

ANDREW BURTON/REUTERS

Sarah Palin and New Yorkers don't often see eye to eye, but the former Republican candidate for vice-president channeled the frustration of many Big Gulp fans in the Big Apple this week when a state judge struck down Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to restrict sales of sugary beverages. Only hours after Judge Milton Tingling called the ban "arbitrary and capricious," Ms. Palin took to Twitter to chirp: "Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers. To politicians with too much time on their hands we say: Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!"

But after The Globe and Mail ran an editorial declaring the mayor's "battle against fat went too far," readers suggested that was a simplistic response to a complex problem. A few, apparently inspired by the graphic images adorning cigarette packages in some parts of the world, floated the idea of slapping a photo of a fat child on supersized servings, and re-naming the drinks. "Who's going to order an 84 oz. Big Fat Lazy Brat?" asked one reader. Said another: "Americans have an inalienable right to do stupid things. They certainly exercise that right each and every day."

Still, others agreed with the editorial (and Ms. Palin). "How dare people have the ability to buy something under their own free will," said one. "Not only was the law unenforceable, but it would have done nothing to fix the obesity issue," said another.

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Some policymakers had hoped Mr. Bloomberg's ban might set up New York as a live case study that could prove the efficacy of such efforts. That, after all, is how policies often spread in the U.S., with one city or state enacting a law – say, health care coverage for all, or the legalization of gay marriage – and others sitting on the sidelines until it is proven out.

Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire who rides the subway but is often dismissed as being out of touch with the common folk, has hit similar road bumps before. For years, he took flak for an anti-gun stance that is now gaining traction. And his insistence that restaurants post nutritional information about their meals was also derided as needlessly nannyish; now, it is held up as a model of good policy. Sure enough, after Monday's decision, he vowed to continue with his anti-soda campaign. "Any time you adopt a ground-breaking policy, special interests will sue," he said, standing in a diner whose owner endorsed the ban. "That's America."

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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