Mixed drinks? Hoffman says Idaho vodka ban is worse than NYC soda ban

New York City's proposed ban on super-sized sodas is an insufferable "nanny state overreach."

But Idaho's ban on Five Wives vodka could be worse, says Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative lobbying group.

Idaho's state-run liquor dispensary banned the Utah-produced Five Wives brand, saying its references to polygamy could offend Mormons.

Writes Hoffman, in his weekly column: "Neither state law nor the regulations of the liquor division provide a mechanism for the director to ban the sale of a product based on perceived offensiveness. And nowhere in state law or state regulations are the standards for what might be deemed offensive or how that determination might be made.

"Are there certain words to avoid? Images? Symbols? Colors? Are there some clues that a liquor manufacturer might able to find, a trail of crumbs to follow, in order to avoid falling into the same trap that Five Wives found itself in?"

Here is the full column:

In some respects, New York Mayor Michel Bloomberg’s decision to ban big sodas is somewhat better than Idaho’s decision to ban Five Wives Vodka from sale in Idaho. Don’t get me wrong, Bloomberg’s proposal suffers from being insufferable. It’s a nanny state overreach. The ban would apply to restaurants, movie theaters, coffee shops and similar establishments. The restriction would forbid the sale of sweetened drinks in containers that are 16 ounces or more.

But you can still buy diet drinks in 32-ounce containers. You can still load up on super-sized sugar intense orange juice. Or milk. Or even milkshakes. And the ban says nothing about alcoholic beverages, so have all the Big Gulp chocolatinis you want.

And, of course, a person could still get a 12-ounce soda and chase it with another 12-ounce soda, completely defeating the purpose of the ban.

Again, I repeat: Bloomberg is playing parent to the residents and visitors of New York City, who he believes are not smart enough to make healthy drink selections. At this rate, Bloomberg will next ban my favorite NYC staple: A bagel with a schmear of cream
cheese. I already have a mom and dad. I don’t need government to play the role.

Now back to Idaho and its decision to ban Five Wives Vodka from sale: Here in Idaho, the state government owns the liquor stores. The state government decides what liquor will go on its store shelves and what liquor won’t. I could write another, separate column on why state controlled liquor sales are a colossal failure. Not today. Today, the point is this: While Bloomberg’s ban on soda is silly, at least it is specific and even measureable.

Idaho told Five Wives Vodka that it couldn’t be sold here in the state because the beverage is “offensive to a prominent segment of our population” and “in poor taste with respect to our citizens.” Idaho’s liquor laws allow the state’s liquor director to “determine
the classes, varieties, and brands of alcoholic liquors to be kept in state warehouses and for sale at state liquor stores and distribution stations.”

But neither state law nor the regulations of the liquor division provide a mechanism for the director to ban the sale of a product based on perceived offensiveness. And nowhere in state law or state regulations are the standards for what might be deemed offensive or how that determination might be made.

Are there certain words to avoid? Images? Symbols? Colors? Are there some clues that a liquor manufacturer might able to find, a trail of crumbs to follow, in order to avoid falling into the same trap that Five Wives found itself in?

The answer is, no. And this the problem with the state’s ban on a legal product, which has been given the green light for sale in other liquor-control states, including Utah. Idaho’s ban, then, has all the markings of an arbitrary administrative decision that may or may not be repeated again. And liquor makers must suffer accordingly under such a regime.

At least soda makers know what to expect from Mayor Bloomberg.

Get Twitter updates on my blog and column and Statesman editorials. Become a follower. You can also get updates on Facebook's Idaho Statesman Opinion Page.

I was born and raised in Upstate

Ny....and yes, it is a 'nanny state' to the extreme. By 18, I was done with it and left (that and I watched my family be sucked dry by taxes all my life)..for example..it is illegal anywhere in NY, except for a pool on your own property, to swim without a life guard. I had friends, get very costly tickets (in the mid 80's) for having their feet in a stream 3 inches deep, no life guard.....there are many more laws like that there. I knew I was not going to spend my life paying tons of taxes, just to have the state be my nanny.

Thank you Maratama for your post.

I'm know your agony. Boiselibs have no idea of our pain. They are in a bubble world. More later.

Please enlighten us

how an Idaho Republican dominated governmental state liquor division, that has kept a legitimate business from selling their product in Idaho, because they decided that the product might be insulting to a religious organization, has caused you pain and agony through and by the "Boiselibs."

Talkin about NY nanny state stuff the Boise libs don't know.

You elected your overseers, now deal with it. Yeah, be a man. For now I'll be drowning some flies on the Battenkill.

Well to start with,

I'm an Idaho resident. I will assure you that, other than the Lieutenant Governor, "overseers," in this state were not elected by me. I am not a Boise lib nor am I a Republican or Democrat. As far as NY being a nanny state, I, and I'm sure many other Idahoans, including "Boise libs," could care less about the laws of NY. The basis of this story was about the state of Idaho denying a legitimate business the right to sell their product in the state, one reason being, that it would offend a certain religion. You seem to enjoy fishing on the Battenkill, so NY must not be totally painful for you.


is he fishing the Battenkill on the NY side or the VT side ;) and for the record, the whole "illegal to swim without a lifeguard" is bull. 100% made up for your enjoyment and his fantasy.

Don't know,

but in all fairness, the, "illegal to swim without a lifeguard," was stated by maratama.


I sure would like to see some link about the lifeguard laws of New York State. And what other laws do they have like those?

I grew up in upstate New York

and I never heard anything like that


your comments are falling on Kevin Richert's deaf ears. He endorses these type of restrictions by government. His motto is; the more the better.


KR, and Statesman editorial board supported the Boise city smoking ban.

It is

your inalienable right to act, or to remain passive in matters concerning your own welfare in this Country.
I choose the former as best and as often as I am able.

yes Maratama, Id liek to see that evidence too

I grew up in Upstate NY, still have plenty of family there (spent some years on the Battenkill too, VT for those of you who aren't familiar). This whole "lifeguard"
thing is news to me.

lifeguard not required in a hotel in NYC


but they are in other public areas in NYC


haven't found out about upstate yet.

Is it

possible to be more off-topic?

The cold war is over

I see no reason to ban vodka based on the idea that it makes you think of the Ruskies.

I'm still wondering why Hoffman gets constant coverage

"His weekly column"....boes that mean his latest website post? Why do we hear so much about Wayne Hoffman?

Kevin Richert

Kevin, do you care to comment on this? I was also wondering why you would give Wayne Hoffman so much attention. Why not talk to elected government officials, citizens in the street, or my neighbor about this hot(?) issue? What's the big deal about Hoffman? Is he the new "decider" for Idaho?


I post Wayne Hoffman's columns on occasion (not weekly, but on occasion), when I think the topic is interesting and likely to start a conversation. I think this piece certainly met that criteria.

Whether you agree with Hoffman or not — and frequently, I don't — his group holds some sway in state politics. That's another reason why I keep an eye on what he's writing, and why I sometimes post his pieces.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

Wayne and the IFF


I think that it may be overly simplistic to label the IFF as a "conservative lobbying group." For starters, not all of the IFF's positions are necessarily conservative. For example, the article that you referenced mentions Wayne's (and the IFF's) opposition to the state liquor monopoly. That is not exactly a conservative position, as it is many of the religious conservatives in this state that want to keep the monopoly in place. Also, one of the main speakers at the upcoming IFF banquet is Judge Andrew Napolitano, a libertarian that passionately expresses his anti-war views and advocates the legalization of drugs. These are also not traditional conservative positions.

Also, the IFF is not primarily a lobbying organization. While the IFF may engage in some lobbying, its primary role is research and education. The IFF conducts studies and publishes various reports, such as its "Pork Report" on wasteful state spending. It has published reports on educational policies in Idaho, has also published research on health care spending in Idaho, and engages in political reporting as well.

I think that perhaps the best description of the IFF would be a free-market think tank. That captures its limited-government, free-market focus, but avoids political labels that don't quite fit its mission and activities.

Sorry, I don't buy it. IFF is not a Think Tank

IFF is an advocacy group. I have looked at their website and their supposed "education and research" pieces. Most appear to be nothing more than lobbying material. In fact, I find it difficult to take the "Pork Report" seriously based on it's very opinionated style of writing and ridiculous images. The information itself would be much better if Hoffman simply published the data and analysis without all the cheesy commentary.

IFF has three registered lobbyists and Hoffman is at the Statehouse on almost a daily basis during the legislature. He and other members of IFF regularly testified on a variety of bills, actively lobbied legislators and drafted legislation. These are not the actions of a "Think Tank". They are the actions of a lobbying organization.

Opposition to the state liquor monopoly is most certainly a conservative position (smaller government, free market, less regulation, etc.) ...it simply isn't a religious position. Some seem to forget those are not the same thing.

IFF may engage in advocacy,

IFF may engage in advocacy, but it is generally advocating greater freedom, not just lobbying on behalf of specific groups or interests. When most people hear the term lobbyist, they think of someone who is represents the interests of a particular group or industry and is seeking the passage of legislation that is favorable to that group's interests. The IFF's efforts are broader than that.

Also, the members of various highly respected think tanks testify in front of legislative and regulatory bodies all of the time. Take the CATO Institute, for example. Its employees and analysts testify in front of Congress on a regular basis, and its legal scholars actively participate in the legal process through amicus curiae briefs, but it is still regarded as a think tank. There is no doubt that the IFF advocates limited government and free markets, but the fact that it has an overarching philosophy shouldn't preclude it from being considered a think tank.

Also, you would think that opposition to the state liquor monopoly should be a conservative idea but, as you have pointed out elsewhere, conservatives do not always favor limited government as much as their rhetoric would suggest. There are plenty of people that call themselves conservatives but are more than happy to have the government step in when it comes to social issues (including alcohol). There is also a fairly strong connection between social conservatism and religion, although I agree that one can be religious and not socially conservative and vice-versa. My point was that the IFF's positions do not necessarily fall in line with conservative orthodoxy. In reality, the IFF probably falls somewhere between being conservative and being libertarian.

I agree with Hoffman on most of this...however, I believe he

gives some too much credit. He criticizes Bloomberg for thinking parents are, "not smart enough to make healthy drink selections." First of all, Bloomberg has stated that the idea is to make people more aware of the choices they are making. He thinks they are smart enough if they just think about it for a minute.

Unfortunately, those who actually do believe that many parents are not smart enough to make good choices are correct. There are a growing number of parents not smart enough to make healthy selections for their children. If you don't believe it, just look at the growing number of obese children. With the exception of a few who might have some real medical condition, it is reasonable to assume most of their parents do not make healthy selections for these kids.

We hate the idea of a "nanny state" but we continue to ignore the fact that many children would do much better if they had a real nanny because their parents are failing to do their jobs. How do we get parents to actually do their job without these kind of "nanny state" regs?

You are never going to get

You are never going to get everybody to behave as model citizens unless you are willing to micromanage the lives of everybody in the state through coercive policies. People in NY may tolerate that kind of nanny-statism, but it has no place here in Idaho. People should be allowed to make their own decisions AND should be accountable for the consequences of their decisions.

Also, keep in mind that NY imposes both community rating and guaranteed issue requirements on health insurance companies. That means that no matter how unhealthy a person's lifestyle may be, they cannot be forced to pay a higher rate for their health insurance, and a company cannot decide not to insure somebody. This forces healthy people to subsidize the bad habits of the obese, and insulates the obese from the consequences of their own actions. That is not the recipe for getting people to act responsibly. Keep treating everybody like children and you will end up with a nation of childish people.

My question was, how do we get people to change before

the negative impact is too great to overcome? I realize we will never get everybody, but something should be done to stop the trend. I don't like the idea of regulations either. I couldn care less what they do in New York. But let's not pretend that obesity isn't a problem in Idaho and that we aren't all paying for the problem. So, what do we do? Hold kids accountable for Mom and Dad's rotten parenting skills?

Yes, people in Idaho like to make their own decisions....unless it has to do with liquor, marriage, ultrasounds, insurance, etc. Then, we don't seem to have a problem mandating what people should do.

I agree with you that Idaho

I agree with you that Idaho can do a lot better with regard to social issues like liquor, marriage, ultrasounds, etc. I would love to see the passion of the young Ron Paul supporters translate into a more libertarian Republican party - one that believes that freedom is to be respected in all areas of our lives, not just in our economic decisions.

Where you and I seem to disagree is where to draw the line on the state's involvement with someone else's child. You seem to think that it is the state's job to make sure that all parents are raising their kids in a state-approved manner, and I disagree. Absent actual danger to the child (and I don't consider simply being chubby to be an imminent danger), it is really none of the state's business. If you want to help educate parents and kids about the dangers of obesity, and help provide them with healthy activities, by all means start a business or a non-profit for the purposes of doing so. I just don't think that the coercive power of the state should be brought to bear on parents to bring them in line with whatever a majority of the bureaucrats or politicians think is acceptable. Yeah, some kids are going to get better parenting than others, but unless you want to turn our kids over to the state to be raised in a uniform environment then there will always be differences.

Also, I brought up the NY issue because it is an example of the state stepping in to address a problem that it had already made worse with its previous "solutions." The more that the state steps in to run people's lives, the less responsibility they will take for managing their own lives (and those of their children). Over time people will lose their sense of self-reliance because they are always looking for external guidance as to how to live their lives.

I think you misunderstood

I'm not saying it's the state's job. I'm asking how we do it without the state being involved? As a society, how do we get more parents to do their job? To stop expecting teachers, schools, the state, etc., to be responsible for their children's progress?

That said, I do think it's the state's business when the state is footing the bill for healthcare and insurance coverage for so many children. Obesity and poor health add to those costs. If the state is covering the costs, the state is responsible for managing those costs.