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Will a big soda ban make people drink more?

He may be supportive of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg still wants to ban super-sized sugary drinks.

ZyglisMore than half of New Yorkers surveyed said they are against the ban, but Bloomberg hasn't flinched.

"We didn't propose it because we thought it would be popular," Bloomberg said in a statement.

As usual, the rest of the world just thinks we're crazy--for instituting the ban and for offering such huge portions to begin with.

"It's so weird for us, the idea that a person would drink more than a liter of soda - that's huge! Of course there should be a law to stop that," said Arthur Trigo, a 19-year-old student in Sao Paulo told the Associated Press. "Americans are such exaggerated consumers, they really need to consume less."

Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post says Bloomberg is doing nothing but stoking the public's basest fears about a nanny state:

Bloomberg’s Mayor-Knows-Best paternalism feeds — pardon the pun — into a broader public anxiety about overbearing government. The bank and auto bailouts, the massive stimulus package, and sweeping new regulations of health care and the financial industry — all justified, by the way — have contributed to a public sense that the era of big government is back with a vengeance.

John Lott Jr. at National Review Online insists that despite the best of intentions, laws like this just aren't effective:

It is really very difficult to force people to live more healthily than they want. The federal government has mandated safer cars, but research has consistently shown that such mandates lead people to drive more recklessly. (See also this study from the Review of Economics and Statistics.) The number of accidents actually increases after safety features such as seat belts are mandated for cars. True, the occupants of a car are more likely to survive an individual accident, but generally the number of accidents increases by enough to offset the safety benefits. In addition, more pedestrians and bicyclists are struck by cars.

This finding also applies to NASCAR drivers. And bicyclists are more likely to get hit by cars when they wear safety helmets.

This phenomenon is so pervasive that economists have even given it a name: the Peltzman effect, after the University of Chicago economist who first discovered it in 1975.

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