A recent proposal by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg looks to ban the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks over 16 ounces at city food establishments. The proposal has many questioning whether New York has gone too far with so-called ‘Nanny State’ laws that are thought by some to be overprotective or interfere too much with individual choice.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, 'Oh, this is terrible,'" Mayor Bloomberg said in an interview with the New York Times. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something....I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do,” he added.
However, those in the New York City beverage industry are up in arms about the proposed ban while residents are still trying to understand how Bloomberg’s plan could affect their everyday lives.
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Bloomberg is not the only local politician in America to propose laws described as enhancing the ‘Nanny State.’ The following is a collection of laws that have had residents wondering whether the government is going too far.
Texting While Jaywalking
We’ve all seen pedestrians wander obliviously into the street, too busy texting a friend to notice the rush of oncoming traffic. The city of Fort Lee, N.J., has decided to save these pedestrians from themselves by fining them $85 for the offense.
Mandatory Life Jackets on Rivers
During summer 2011, King County, Wash., required that everyone “on or in a major river” wear a life jacket. This includes swimming, floating, or boating. Swimmers are required to don the life vest if they are in waters more than five feet from shore or in waters more than four feet deep. Not wearing an approved floating device can result in a fine of $86. It is unknown whether or not the law was renewed for summer 2012.
The Saggy Pants Law
The state of Tennessee is telling its children to pull their pants up by passing a law preventing students from exposing underwear or body parts in an “indecent manner.” In effect, the law dictates what clothes the state's children should wear and how they should wear them. The fine for violating the law is a $250, or up to 160 hours of community service.
Fines For Muddy Cars
In Minnetonka, Minn., it is considered a public nuisance, and therefore illegal, for “a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway.”
All violations of the Minnetonka code are subject to fines up to $2,000, but a spokesperson said the city “attempts several other measures to mitigate the situation before pursuing.
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Sunscreen at Summer Camps
The good news is that in 2011 the state of Maryland passed a set of guidelines to protect children from inappropriate physical contact. The bad news is that the guidelines extended to procedures routinely performed by camp counselors, such as the application of sunscreen to campers. The guidelines required that parents wishing to protect their children from the sun’s ultraviolet rays with sunscreen had to give camp counselors permission to apply it, causing some to question whether this was a 'Nanny State' law.
Outdoor Smoking Ban
In 2003, New York became one of the first states in the U.S. to institute an indoor smoking ban in public places. Eight years later, New York City took things a step further and banned smoking in outdoor public places as well, including parks, beaches, and pedestrian malls. Violation of the ban carries a $50 fine.
Toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals
Since 1979, children have delighted in the McDonald’s Happy Meal, a repast marketed specifically at them in which the hamburger and french fries are accompanied by a toy. But in 2011, the meals got markedly less happy when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law banning the inclusion of toys from the meals unless they met stringent nutritional standards — they had to have less than 600 calories, they had to contain fruits and vegetables, and the beverages could not have “excessive fat or sugar.”
[Click here to see the full list of America's "Nanny State" Laws]