Mayor Nutter Says Bloomberg Soda Plan ‘Worth Evaluating and Considering’
As we mentioned earlier today, Mayor Michael Nutter is in Washington, DC today and delivered the keynote address at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Inaugural National Soda Summit. His statements were recently sent out to press and note something we’ve all been thinking: He is still adamant about his soda tax idea and even believes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on super-size drinks is a positive step.
“Mayors across the country and I have proposed taxes or new regulations on sugar sweetened beverages,” he said. “We need a multi-pronged approach to decrease sugary drinks consumption. Education, taxation, and increased access to healthier options have to all be a part of the discussion.”
Last summer, the Nutter Administration proposed a 2-cent per-ounce tax on soda, after a previous plan failed and property taxes were hiked instead. The city has invested its own and federal stimulus cash into an anti-soda campaign, in which posters are put up outside delis and other establishments asking consumers to think twice before purchasing their beverage of choice.
Mayor Nutter’s press secretary Mark McDonald told us earlier this year there were “no specific plans at this time [to introduce a soda tax].”
Nutter continued in his summit talk today, noting Mayor Bloomberg’s accomplishment.
“Just last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. His ban would limit large sugary drinks being sold at food service establishments, like fast food restaurants, sports arenas or deli’s. The ban wouldn’t apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based products or beverages with no more than 25 calories per 8 oz. serving,” he said, adding: “It’s a bold strategy and is worth evaluating and considering. Studies have shown that people eat what is served to them. Perhaps, if offered smaller portions people would consume less. The problem, which Mayor Bloomberg has clearly noted, is that ridiculously large portions have become the norm – 20 or 24 oz. sugary drinks are common.”
Mayor Bloomberg’s idea was both touted and slammed throughout the media, often dependent upon ideology. A Gawker headline urged readers to “Quit complaining about Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban, fatsos.”
As we wrote earlier this year, the American Beverage Industry has been lobbying hard against any increase in tax on sweetened beverages across the country. Here in Philadelphia, they spent $238,921 on lobbying the city against a soda tax—six times more than the next group. Funded by the American Beverage Association, a group called Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste was put together to put a hip face on efforts to stop anti-soda legislation. They’ve noted stimulus money earmarked for anti-obesity campaigns would have been better spent on a larger blue collar workforce. A STEW Facebook graphic noted the money Philly spent on its anti-obesity campaign could have bought 52 police officers, 54 firefighters, 57 paramedics, 58 teachers or 88 EMTs, for one year.
The Nutter Administration has essentially ignored these campaigns, publicly. “In 2011, with Philadelphia’s School District facing a significant budget shortfall, I reintroduced the sugar-sweetened beverage tax. At two-cents-per-ounce, this time on distributors, we believed it would close the budget gap,” Nutter said at the summit. “Each time we introduced the sugar-sweetened beverage tax, we faced determined opposition from the beverage industry.” (Philebrity has the entire speech up here.)
Nutter went on to tout his “Get Healthy Philly” initiative as well as a $7.5 million Center for Disease Control grant for obesity reduction strategies.
“Taxes can play a role in adjusting consumer choices, he said. “Mayor Bloomberg’s idea of a serving-size ban could help reduce consumption.”