Green Cities

Judge Strikes Down NYC Sugary Beverage Restriction

With American obesity rates continuing to reach staggering heights, it’s no surprise that some people are saying “enough is enough” and searching for ways to stem rising obesity rates in both adults and children. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City is leading the fight for healthier food choices in New York City and throughout America. Bloomberg proposed a beverage ban that was part of his efforts to improve New York City’s health. The ban would have prevented sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces from being sold at food-service establishments and the provision and sale of self-service cups larger than 16 ounces in New York City. The beverage industry did not support this ban and recently took the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to court, where State Supreme Court Justice Tingling declared that the potential for uneven enforcement and loopholes would make the ban too difficult to implement. Mayor Bloomberg’s ban was rejected, but it seems he’s not giving up that easily. He plans to appeal the ruling. And when you consider the statistics on obesity, it’s difficult to fault the Mayor for trying to do something. Whether you agree or disagree with the Bloomberg sugary beverage restriction, there’s no denying that America’s waistline is expanding. 35.7% of U.S. adults are obese, and America’s youth is not faring much better. In the past 20 years, obesity rates in children and adolescents have nearly tripled. A 2013 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report showed that 17% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese. The numbers for Washington, D.C., are particularly alarming; for example, 43% of all D.C. school-aged children obese or overweight. D.C. officials are taking this issue very seriously, but with a different tactic than in NYC: They’re working in schools. In August 2010, the Healthy Schools Act took effect in order to improve the health and wellness of students attending D.C. public and public charter schools. Earth Day Network was proud to lead a coalition that helped pass and fund this legislation. D.C. now leads the nation in offering school breakfast and lunch menus that feature more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. DC’s new school nutrition standards are ahead of the curve and are setting an excellent example for America’s schools.
While we know obesity is dangerous to individual health, it’s also dangerous to the country. In 2008, the CDC estimated 147 billion dollars of medical costs were associated with obesity. The costs for our nation’s children are just too high. The actions being taken in D.C. and in NYC show that change is on the way. Change usually starts with one small step, and in NYC it may start with one small cup.
CDC- Percentage of high school students who were obese* — selected U.S. states, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2011: Map of the United States             Obesity rates in adults over time: