As Soda Ban Approved in New York City, How Goes Philly?
Last week, New York City’s ban on 16-ounce sugary drinks was approved. Which means restaurants, street carts, movie theaters and other establishments are not allowed to sell medium-sized sodas, energy drinks and some juices. While you may be thinking, “sucks for them,” keep in mind that many of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s life-saving ideas have also been touted by Philly political leaders, like Mayor Nutter, and have a tendency to slip down the Jersey Turnpike within years of New Yorkers guinea pigging the idea.
“In 2002, Bloomberg’s administration banned smoking in restaurants and bars in the city. And many cities and states followed suit, including Philadelphia [which] now bans smoking in restaurants and most bars,” notes ABC News. “In 2005, New York City became the first to force restaurants to stop using artificial trans fats. Philadelphia later passed its own trans-fat ban. And in 2008, Bloomberg passed a labeling law requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. Months later, Philadelphia passed a similar, more comprehensive law that went into effect in 2010.”
A trend is one thing. Nutter’s statements are another. He has denied having any plans “at the moment” to ban 16-ounce sugary drinks. But when Bloomberg originally proposed the plan, Nutter seemed to be on board.
“Just last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces,” Nutter said during his keynote address at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Inaugural National Soda Summit in June. “His ban would limit large sugary drinks being sold at food-service establishments, like fast-food restaurants, sports arenas or delis. The ban wouldn’t apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based products or beverages with no more than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving.” He added: “It’s a bold strategy and is worth evaluating and considering.”
During the summer of 2011, Nutter proposed a two-cent per-ounce soda tax, which was massively opposed by the American Beverage Association and would eventually fail (as a similar idea did a year earlier). Instead of a soda tax, the city then raised property tax rates. At the sugary drinks summit, despite his idea’s failure, Nutter was still touting the idea, which fit with the city’s Get Healthy Philly initiative, part of which attempted to discourage kids from buying soda at corner stores with graphics posted out front said stores.
“In 2011, with Philadelphia’s school district facing a significant budget shortfall, I re-introduced the sugar-sweetened beverage tax. At two-cents-per-ounce, this time on distributors, we believed it would close the budget gap,” Nutter continued at the summit. “Each time we introduced the sugar-sweetened beverage tax, we faced determined opposition from the beverage industry.”
Opposition that is not slowing down.
Earlier this year, it was found that the American Beverage Association poured $238,921 into Philadelphia into lobbying efforts during the first three months of 2012, during which time they spoke with all members of City Council. The ABA has also begun a social media ad campaign in which they’re opposing city governments who attempt to put a tax on soda—a campaign they’ve called Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste. In addition to the sugary drink tax and any attempt to out-Bloomberg Bloomberg, they’ve taken on Philadelphia’s Get Healthy Philly campaign, which is meant to make the masses stop and think before buying that drink at a corner store.
According to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, during the year’s second quarter, the American Beverage Association is back at it. They’ve spent $51,000 on “direct communication” in Philadelphia; 15,950.88 on “indirect communication” (this term includes letter-writing campaigns, ads, billboards, etc.) and more than $66,000 total for lobbying. The BOA’s lobbying information includes a survey to all members of Council, as well, and all of whom the organization have lobbied are “opposed” to a soda tax. That includes Councilmembers Mark Squilla, Kenyatta Johnson, Jennie Blackwell, Curtis Jones, Darrell Clarke, Bobby Henon, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Cindy Bass, Marian Tasco, Brian O’Neill, Wilson Goode, Bill Greenlee, Bill Green, Dennis O’Brien, Jim Kenney, Blondell Reynolds-Brown and David Oh.
Or, if you’ve been counting alongside us, everyone.