Friday, June 27, 2014

Soda controversy continues

The ongoing policy debate over sugar-sweetened sodas and their impact on the nation's health continued this week with a New York state court decision overturning New York City's ban on big sodas and a City of San Francisco proposal to tax sodas. 

From NPR on the state court's decision overturning the New York City big soda ban:

A New York state judge has knocked down New York City's landmark new ban on big, sugary drinks, just one day before it was set to take effect.

Calling them "arbitrary and capricious," state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling on Monday invalidated regulations that would have banned New York City restaurants, movie theaters and other food service establishments from serving sugary drinks in sizes bigger than 16 ounces. The ban would have covered not just sodas but a wide array of other sugar-sweetened drinks, from smoothies to coffee. (Here's a PDF of the ruling.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the regulations last May, part of an effort to curb runaway obesity rates by encouraging people to drink less sugar-laden beverages. The New York City Board of Health approved the measure last September.But Tingling found that the board of health had overstepped the authority it was granted to fulfill its mission: protecting against and preventing diseases. That authority, the judge said, does not include the power to "limit or ban a legal item under the guise of 'controlling chronic disease.' "

From New York Board of Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett:

“Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes by seeking to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.”

From The San Francisco Examiner on the city's proposed soda tax:

Dueling sides in the soda-tax debate staked their ground Wednesday during City Hall’s first public hearing on the proposed November ballot measure.

As health professionals, public-school officials and parents turned out to back the tax, many wearing white T-shirts that read “Our Community Health Matters, Let’s Fight For It,” small-business owners and their supporters turned out to denounce the tax wearing red T-shirts that said, “Stop Unfair Beverage Taxes, Coalition for An Affordable City.”

If passed by voters, San Francisco would become the first city to impose such a tax — 2 cents for every sugary beverage ounce — but it’s facing strong opposition from the soda industry.

“These drinks are not healthy,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, one of the leaders of the effort. “They are a significant contributing factor to Type 2 diabetes.”

Some opponents during the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing Wednesday said the tax was only about the money and wouldn’t reduce consumption, only increase costs for consumers at a time when many residents “confront a growing affordability gap.”

From San Francisco Board of Supervisor's member Scott Wiener:

"We are experiencing an epidemic of health problems directly attributable to sugary beverages – including spikes in diabetes and obesity afflicting adults, teenagers, and even young children. Teenagers, particularly in low income communities, are now being diagnosed with pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes. These cases of diabetes are attributable to significant consumption of sugary beverages. A recent California survey found that sugary beverage consumption by teenagers is increasing above its already-high level."

To learn more about Colorado efforts to reduce obesity, contact Susan Motika.

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