Are You Buying This? Critics of NYC’s Large Soda Ban, Including NAACP, Say It Hurts Minority Businesses

January 24, 2013  |  

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Opponents and supporters of New York City’s ban on oversized sugary drinks made a court appearance yesterday, with critics seeking to put the measure on hold while this lawsuit is resolved. It’s scheduled to go into effect on March 12. At issue, reports the Associated Press, are biases that will disproportionately impact small and minority-owned businesses.

Mayor Bloomberg and his administration say this is an effort to combat the high obesity rate — 24 percent of adults in the city — and trim the $4.7 billion price tag for treating obesity-related illnesses.

The NAACP and the Hispanic Federation have joined the American Beverage Association and a number of other groups who argue that the rule oversteps into consumer choice and isn’t fair to businesses that will be prohibited from selling the jumbo beverages while convenience stores and other large businesses, which aren’t subject to city health rules, can sell the items. Businesses caught violating the 16-ounce rule will face a $200 fine, starting in June.

“The NAACP and the Hispanic Federation, an organization of 100 Northeastern groups, say their concern is that minority-owned delis and corner stores will end up at a disadvantage compared with grocery chains,” wrote the AP.

But some are calling out these organizations because of their ties to the big beverage companies. Among the ties cited: Coke is giving $100,000 to the NAACP for healthy lifestyle initiatives and former Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodriguez Lopez now works for Coca-Cola. Gawker (h/t New York‘s Daily Intelligencer blog) also points out that the Hispanic Federation’s annual gala will honor Coca-Cola with the Corporate Leadership Award.

“Given that obesity rates are higher than average among blacks and Hispanics, the NAACP should refuse soda makers’ money and ‘reevaluate the position the group is taking in New York City,’ Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of the nutrition advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest,” the AP adds.

“In its brief, the N.A.A.C.P. conceded that obesity was a significant problem among blacks and Hispanics. But the group urged the city to create a more holistic program to attack the problem, including an increase in financing for physical education programs in public schools,” The New York Times reports.

Are you buying this racial argument from the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation? The ban is a little heavy-handed, but honestly, if you want to drink that much soda, you can purchase that much soda. You just can’t do it in one container. So instead of buying a 20-ounce soda at the corner store, you buy two cans. Is that so outrageous?

The health issues associated with obesity have to be tackled, and we have to start somewhere. Why not start here? And if it doesn’t work, you do away with it. The NAACP is right; there should be increased physical education in public schools. But diet is a huge issue as well. Public policy is stepping in to try and change unhealthy behavior.

Thoughts?

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