Sugary Drink Taxes go Down the Tubes. . .. for Now!

Increased junk food ads geared towards young people, deceptive corporate food moves in school lunches, increased soda consumption by youth and several other concerning studies made headlines in this month’s Yale Rudd Center Health Digest. But perhaps the biggest news this week in the fight against the obesity epidemic was the unfortunate rejection of two bills that attempted to restrict consumption of soda in cities (don’t worry, folks, you can keep reading, there is some hope at the end of this article, we promise). New York has been fighting in court to ban large sodas in the city for over two years and a final court deemed Thursday that the bill overstepped the City Health Department’s authority. New York Times writer Michael Grynbaum explains:

In a 20-page opinion, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. of the New York State Court of Appeals wrote that the city’s Board of Health “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” in enacting the proposal ... Judge Pigott wrote that the complexity of the proposal and its reach into the everyday lives of millions meant that the City Council ought to address it instead.

It’s failure was due in good part to lobbying from Big Soda (aka the American Beverage association)--not a huge surprise there, but it’s a little unsettling as Marion Nestle wrote:

The ruling means the Court does not accept the idea that health departments have the right to set health policy for city residents. I suspect we will be seeing the implications of this ruling for a long time to come.

And, almost as a pre-emptive fulfillment of Nestle’s sentiments, the Seattle Times last week reported that the bill in California (Sen. Bill Monning's SB1000) which would have required sugary drinks to have labels was rejected by the state legislature. Again, the ABA was there, Fenit Nirappi writes:

Representatives of the beverage industry argued that the bill was unfair by not applying to other foods and drinks, including lattes and chocolate milk.

Right! Because if lattes had been included in the bill, the beverage industry would have been backing this one even 10%? Humor helps. So, let’s laugh it off and keep on trying. There is word of measures in Berkeley and San Francisco that might be headed to the ballots in November. And there are plenty people out there fighting the good fight. For instance, the Berkeley Healthy Child Coalition is running their Berkeley v. Big Soda campaign in hopes of levying a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. If Marion Nestle’s words are true (and they often are), then it is in the best interest of California and our nation to support their work!

VIDEO: New York City Health Department Anti-Soda Ad from 2010


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