NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends the 25th annual Brooklyn tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House on January 17, 2011 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
The Bloomberg administration has launched a new crusade -- against the dangers of drinking sugary soft drinks that can cause problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Even as the city's Health Department begins this effort, the City Council has voted for a total ban on smoking in parks, pedestrian plazas and public beaches.
As he begins his 10th year in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has faced criticism on many issues. But whether or not you are a Bloomberg fan, you have to give him a lot of credit for his public health initiatives in many areas.
Under two able, aggressive health commissioners, Thomas Frieden and the current commissioner, Thomas Farley, the Mayor has accomplished revolutionary public health reforms. Smoking was banned in bars, restaurants and other public spaces. There had been overwhelming evidence for years that smoking causes cancer -- but this administration met the issue head-on.
The battle against sugary drinks features a new tv commercial which tells people: "Don't drink yourselves sick. Go with water, seltzer, fat-free milk or unsweetened teas instead." Health Department spokeswoman Zoe Tobin was asked about some of the grisly features of the new commercial, including decaying toes and an unconscious man being shocked with a defibrillator. She told the Daily News:
"We're trying to educate people about the potential harmful health consequences of sugar drinks. We call them hard-hitting and realistic."
The Health Department has has distributed similarly "realistic" commercials about the dangers of smoking, including one of a cancer-stricken man with a hacking cough, There's been no effort to minimize the shock element in public health campaigning.
The Mayor has also helped organize an anti-gun coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. So far, it has had limited success because of the determined opposition of the gun lobby led by by the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg and some coalition members tried to press the case for gun control legislation after the Tucson massacre. Congress has not responded to this effort.
Gun violence, as seen by leaders like Dr. Frieden, is a public health problem because it involves life and death for thousands of Americans, particularly young people.
Michael Bloomberg, even as he faces political confrontations in the future, should stay the course on public health. It would b e hard for any New Yorker to argue that, on such issues, he's not on our side.