Big Apple Battles Big Drinks

Beverage association celebrates last-minute victory, but war's not over.

By  Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

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A Red State Speaks Up

Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed limit on the size of sugary sodas had no actual effect outside the city of New York, but it did have a visceral impact—so much so that the state of Mississippi adopted what it calls an “anti-Bloomberg” bill, a law to curtail the ability of local governments to enact food regulations.“We needed a way to prevent government from placing additional regulation on small-business owners in Mississippi,” Republican State Sen. Tony Smith, who introduced the bill, said in an op-ed piece on CNN. “It will prevent a hodgepodge of regulations put in force by various municipalities.”Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in March, saying, “It simply is not the role of the government to micro-regulate citizens’ dietary decisions. The responsibility for one’s personal health depends on individual choices about a proper diet and appropriate exercise.”Mississippi has the nation’s highest rate of obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 34.9% of the state’s adult population was obese in 2011, the report said.


Less Than Popular

The outrage and disbelief over New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda size limit was far from exclusive to beverage makers and retailers. Consumers took to the streets of the city in July in a protest dubbed the “Million Big Gulp March.” “I’m here to tell Mayor Bloomberg to mind his own business and to keep his laws off my body. It’s just a matter of personal liberty,” protester Danny Panzella told a local radio station. Numerous surveys were conducted on the issue, both in New York and beyond. Here’s a look at some of the results.

  • A Quinnipiac University poll (February 2013) found New York City voters 51%-46% opposed Bloomberg’s soda ban.
  • An August 2012 New York Times poll found that 60% of New Yorkers oppose the soda ban, with just 36% in support. The opposition to the ban spanned age, race, gender, political persuasion and soda consumption habits.
  • A NY1/Marist poll (June 2012) found that 53% of New Yorkers oppose Bloomberg’s ban.
  • A Reuters/Ipsos poll (June 2012) found that 64% of Americans oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban. More than 70%of the nearly 1,000 U.S. adults polled online also said they did not think the ban would affect obesity rates.
  • An IBOPE Inteligencia interactive poll indicates 72% of those polled disagree with Bloomberg’s ban, with 58% strongly disapproving.
  • Only 23% agreed.
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll (June 2012) found that 65% of American adults oppose a law that would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces. Just 24% favor a law like the one Bloomberg has proposed as a way to fight obesity.

New York Beverage Tax and Prohibition Proposals

New York City’s effort to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces isn’t the first time beverage sales have been put at risk in the city or the state. A few previous proposals:

  • NYC Council Resolution 1265-2012 would have added an excise tax to certain sugar sweetened beverages.
  • NYC Council Resolution 0768-2011 sought the permission of the U.S. Department of
  • Agriculture to permit the city to prohibit the use of food stamps to purchase sugar-sweetened
  • beverages.
  • New York State Assembly Bill 10010 would have prohibited the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages at food establishments and vending machines on state government property.
  • New York State Assembly Bill 08812 sought to prohibit stores with more than 10 employees from displaying candy or sugared beverages at the checkout counter or aisle.
  • None of the above proposals were enacted.

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