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National Restaurant Association - State and city legislators call for new laws on sugar-sweetened beverages

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State and city legislators call for new laws on sugar-sweetened beverages

Proposals to tax soda are pending in at least eight states -- California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Following in the footsteps of New York City (where a soda ban was struck down in court), size-based bans are being considered in Hawaii and Cambridge, Mass.

Voters in two California cities may decide whether to tax soda when they cast their ballots this November. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has proposed a ballot initiative to levy a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages – City Commissioners have the final say before the proposal appears on the ballot. Berkeley’s City Council is polling its citizens before making a decision on a ballot initiative. Neither city currently has a soda tax. Similar ballot initiatives were defeated last year in Richmond and El Monte.

Maryland is considering a bill that prohibits any beverage other than low-fat milk or bottled water in kids’ meals. Other beverage selections will cost extra. The Restaurant Association of Maryland opposes the bill because restricting beverages is a slippery slope to future food bans. It says kids’ meals shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the obesity problem.

“This legislation is an unprecedented interference in how restaurant children’s meals are packaged and sold,” said Melvin Thompson, senior vice president, RAM. “Restaurants today provide more information and healthier options than ever before. More choices, information, education and increased physical activity are the best ways to combat childhood obesity, not product bans and restrictions.”

Hawaii is considering a similar kids’ meal soda ban as part of a larger bill.

Proposals to tax and restrict sugar-sweetened beverages have been popular in state and local legislatures for several years. Thirteen states considered soda taxes in 2013, but no state has passed a tax, according to Brendan Flanagan, vice president, state and local affairs, National Restaurant Association.

“Anti-soda legislation has been widely rejected by state legislatures,” Flanagan said. “Obesity is the result of many factors, including diet, exercise, and genetics. Most policymakers recognize that banning or taxing sugar-sweetened beverages won’t solve the problem.”

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