New York City has long been a progressive place. It has served as a laboratory for many proposals and policies. Some have been brought to the national stage (think many New Deal initiatives). Some have been adopted by other municipalities (smoking bans in bars). Some have started fads (no-trans fats). Some have fallen on their face (congestion pricing). But I have to say that the New York City Department of Health (Department of Health and Mental Hygeine to be accurate) has been on a role. Let’s count the ways:
1. Strong smoking bans in all indoor public spaces. I think accurately it is any indoor place where a person might work. I don’t think NYC was the first, but it was early, strong, and a major leader in a trend that has hit NJ, CT, and much of the U.S.
2. A pack of cigarettes now costs $8.00 per pack due to huge taxes. Consequently, smoking rates have been nose-diving. And yes, it is due to the tax more than the ban. Plus, nicotine pacth giveaways all over the city!
3. Trans-fat ban that is hitting all restaurants this summer.
4. Calorie count. Any restaurant that has more than 10 locations nation-wide must post their calories. You may think twice about ordering that vente caramel…500 plus calorie latte or that 1,000 calorie Chipotle burrito.
5. Greener NYC. Hybrid cabbies, 1 million new trees, cleaner buses, etc. This may not be the Department of Health exclusively, but I’m sure they played a role.
6. Widespread condom giveaways.
7. The latest is that there is a push to test everyone in the Bronx for HIV/AIDS (voluntary of course). Since the Bronx has the most deaths, not infections (I believe that belongs to Manhattan), they want to catch the disease early so treatment can be started.
So are these measures draconian or public health genius? Which ones do you like? Which ones step on your toes?