Health officials in Boston are saying they are considering ways to curb or even ban the sale of sugary beverages in the city's municipal buildings. The presence of calorie-rich drinks has government agencies worried about the health of employees and visitors to government agencies. As a result, the city's health, education and housing leaders are putting their heads together and working to develop a policy that would reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, the Boston Globe reported Monday.
The city has previously taken action to ban smoking in restaurants and bars and limiting trans-fats in fast-food chains and bakeries. "Somebody has to take a stand, and if it isn't the government and healthcare institutions leading the way to a healthier lifestyle, who's going to do it?" asks Bill Walczak, head of a community health center and a member of the city's soda panel.
The Globe notes that there are precedents for this kind of regulation:
San Francisco’s mayor earlier this year issued an executive order banning sale of sugary drinks, and New York has imposed rules governing the mix of beverages in city vending machines to favor water.
Boston city officials admit curbing the availability of sodas and other sugary drinks -- already banned from the city's school -- may meet greater resistance than previous public health causes. "I think we're going to run into a big issue of people saying, 'Why would you take away our sodas, why are you interfering with what we're eating and drinking?'" says Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
"Unlike tobacco that is always harmful and if a person is smoking in the workplace it harms other people, I think people will look at sugar-sweetened beverages differently," she said
The new regulation is nearly inevitable as it's tied directly to millions of dollars of federal stimulus dollars. Earlier this year, the city received $12.5 million in the form of a stimulus grant. In return, the city promised it would "decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages through counter-advertising and policy change."
Another policy the city may consider is increasing prices for regular beverages, nudging consumers toward the cheaper option of diet drinks and water.