Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, May 26, 2018

D.C. councilwoman may ban sugary drinks to curb obesity rates

D.C. councilwoman may ban sugary drinks to curb obesity rates

Ward 3 D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh has moved to restrict the sale of sugary drinks in the District. Her proposal is similar to the soda ban passed in New York City last year that is aimed to reduce obesity rates.

Cheh, who represents the area encompassing AU, introduced a soda tax bill last year that the council narrowly rejected. However, Cheh may look to draft a new version of the legislation in coming months with support from other councilmembers, according to an Oct. 23 WTOP report.

“That will probably happen this year,” Kiara Pesante, Cheh’s communications director, said.

The proposed ban could face stiff opposition from Baylen Linnekin, a food law scholar and AU adjunct professor. He is the executive director of Keep Food Legal, an organization that unites restaurant groups and other advocacy groups against food legislation.

“We would certainly argue against [the restrictions],” Linnekin said. “We, along with others, would look to challenge it in the courts.”

Linnekin said the correlation between soda consumption and obesity rates remains unclear because soda consumption in the U.S. has declined but obesity continues to rise.

“The science is bad, and essentially it would be a tax on the poor,” Linnekin said of the proposed law.

Anthony Clark, a sophomore in the School of International Service, grew up in D.C. and believes soda restrictions would help combat public health problems in poorer neighborhoods.

“[Companies] are marketing to poor people who buy sodas,” he said. “That’s a huge contributor to obesity in Maryland and D.C.”

However, School of Communication sophomore Haley Holtzscher said she doubts these restrictions will deter frequent soda drinkers.

“If you really want to get around the system, order two sodas,” she said.

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