Ban on Big Gulp, Big Gulp, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Community Organizer, Director City Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, Ebola Crisis, Epidemiologist, health commissioner, Obama Administration, Pro-Tobacco Lobby, secondhand smoke, Tuberculosis
Architect of ‘nanny state’ activism under Mayor Bloomberg
NEW YORK – The public face of the foundering Obama administration response to the Ebola crisis has a history of left-leaning activism and fashions himself as a “community organizer,” much as the president who appointed him in 2009.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, previously served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 2002 to 2009 under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Under Bloomberg, Frieden was the architect of a variety of initiatives, from the prohibition of smoking citywide to the attempted “Big Gulp” ban that the New York State Supreme Court struck down as “arbitrary and capricious.”
Frieden saw government-engineered curbing of soda sales a way to combat obesity while many New Yorkers resented it as a “Nanny State” intrusion into their private lives.
In 2004, the New York Times characterized Frieden as a health-care activist.
“In some ways, Dr. Frieden, who is 43 and is married with one child, is inheriting a tradition of active health commissioners that retreated during the Giuliani administration, when public health was a back-burner issue,” reporter Jennifer Steinhauer wrote in a Times article titled “Gladly Taking the Blame for Health in the City.”
“Although Mayor Bloomberg has taken both the credit and the grief for the ban on smoking, the restaurant fines, and the opposition to a bill on lead paint hazards, insiders on each issue know that the health commissioner is the one who developed these policies.”
In what today seems a prescient comment, Frieden defended his smoking ban policy with a reference to Ebola.
Steinhauer wrote: “About the smoking law, [Freiden] said: ‘In public health there is no pro-TB or pro-Ebola lobby, but there is a pro-tobacco lobby. And they spend $2 billion on marketing and promotion. Everyone knows that secondhand smoke kills. It would be a pretty sorry case if a health commissioner didn’t support this law. The surprise is that the mayor supports it. But I would be happy to be attacked for it.”
The New York Times article noted Freiden began his career in New York in 1990 as an epidemiologist, and his success in documenting the spread of resistant tuberculosis led to his appointment as director of the City Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, where he served from 1992 to 1996.