NYC Sugary Soda Ban Gets a New Foe—Councilwoman Letitia James

Prospect Heights pol says restrictions on sugary soft drinks disproportionately targets lower income residents.


The soda wars, it seems, are just revving up.

On one side is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and a host of other elected officials and advocates who say is crucial to combating a nationwide obesity epidemic.

On the other, a multi-billion dollar soft drink industry that may have just gained an unlikely ally: Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Prospect Heights, who blasted the proposal Monday as bad for business and limiting the choice of poorer city residents.

"I've thought long and hard about the ban," James said. "But after talking with business owners and residents ... I believe the ban would be arbitrarily and unfairly applied."

James' opposition comes as the soft drink industry unveiled a coalition, "New Yorkers For Beverage Choices," featuring a series of ads with "real" city residents railing against the proposed ban.

Unveiled in May, Bloomberg's plan would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of a sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces—the size of a "grande" hot beverage at Starbucks. In practice, that would bar shoppers from buying larger, and by volume, cheaper, containers of soda for their families.

The plan could be instituted as early as March and is subject to a vote by members of the city Board of Health, many of whom are Bloomberg appointees.

Members of the soft drink lobby met with James, along with Melissa Mark Vivierto, D-Manhattan, and Maria del Carmen Arroyo, D-Bronx, who represent communities seeing some of the highest rise in rates of childhood obesity.

James said she planned to visit supermarkets with representatives of Coca-Cola to discuss the soda ban with shoppers—perhaps as early as this week.

"I’m concerned about fitness, healthy living and reducing negative health outcomes," she said. "But the best way to address those indicators is for the city to adequately finance parks in areas where there are high rates of obesity."

Larry July 03, 2012 at 01:46 PM
the city does not have money to "adequately finance parks in 'areas where there are high rates of obesity'" or anywhere else. Parks are not going to get fat people to lose weight. This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard from a politician in a long time. Nutrition education might help a little but some people need to be PREVENTED from harming themselves.
Kris July 04, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Not a fan of the legislation at all, but the councilwoman is using silly arguments, if poorer Americans eat junk food and smoke more cigars and alcohol, would the councilwoman say well the cigarette and alcohol businesses lose money so let's not ass it , similar if poor folks engage in prostitution and it was legal that would be the same, also soda has lower margins for bigger portion sizes, and besides high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure impact mostly minorities, it's like a parent saying but a big gulp to help store, parks won't help as wintertime folks won't use it, and you can't magically create a park everywhere and folks may not go or have time to go.


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