Politics & Policy

New York Lawmaker Wants to Ban Minors from Buying Large-Size Sodas

‘I’ll have a large coke.”

“Can I see some I.D.?”

This exchange could become the norm in the state of New York if Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D., Staten Island) gets his way. Titone has proposed a bill that would ban the sale of sugary drinks 16 ounces or larger to minors unless a parent is present.

Titone thinks this legislation is urgently needed because sugar is a deadly threat: “Sugar in large quantities is a dangerous product. Like a gun, it will kill you. It’s just going to take a little longer,” he told a CBS2 reporter. 

He also proposed a companion bill earlier in August requiring warning labels be affixed to sugary drinks. One proposed version of the warning label reads: “Safety Warning: Consuming food items and beverages with added sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

For New Yorkers, Titone’s quest to crack down on sugary beverages feels like déja vu: It calls to mind former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s unpopular crusade against the drinks. Bloomberg tried to impose regulations via the city’s health board that would have prohibited the sale of most sugary drinks in containers exceeding 16 ounces in the Big Apple. But his ban was rejected in 2014 by the New York Court of Appeals for bypassing the legislature. 

Unlike Bloomberg’s ban, Titone’s bill would apply only to minors. But while it doesn’t infantilize adults, it’s just as open to charges of ineffectual nanny-statism. 

It’s not completely clear how Titone’s proposal would be implemented because the text of the bill isn’t yet available, but consider a scenario. For the first several weeks after I began attending college in New York City, I was still 17 years old. Under Titone’s bill, I would apparently have needed my parents to accompany me to a McDonalds or a 7-Eleven if during that time I ever craved a large Sprite.

But in the end, I could have easily run to a local drug store, bought a six pack of 12-ounce Mountain Dew cans without my parents and without having to procure a fake I.D., and chugged all 72 ounces in one sitting. And if sugar is a mortal enemy, New York might as well ban children from buying Snickers and Skittles, too.

With rising crime and homelessness in New York City, you would think Staten Island politicians might have better things to do than attempt to police groups of teenagers who want large Cokes with their burgers.

— Celina Durgin is a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review

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