Beverage Industry In Major Campaign Vs. N.Y. Restrictions
The beverage industry has launched a no-holds-barrred campaign to stop New York City from implementing a proposal to ban sale of 16-ounce and larger servings of most sugar-sweetened sodas in restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.
The proposal's implementation requires only approval by NYC's Board of Health, whose members were appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the prime driver of the proposal. Mayor Bloomberg, NYC's chief health official and obesity researchers maintain that the restrictions will help reduce consumption of sugary sodas and help help address the city's high obesity rates. The beverage industry cites countering research, maintaining that such restrictions unfairly and misguidedly target sodas amid the many complex factors contributing to obesity, as well as infringe on consumers' right to choose what they consume.
The beverage industry is using advertising, PR and lobbying to marshal consumer and political opposition, starting with getting as many opponents as possible to show up for the Board of Health's public hearing on the matter, slated for July 24, reported The New York Times.
An American Beverage Association spokesperson declined to specify how much is being spent, but told the Times that the industry is "prepared to utilize whatever resources are necessary" to defeat the proposal.
According to the Times, some of the industry's efforts include:
*Creating a "New Yorkers for Beverage Choices" coaltion to coordinate its PR efforts in the city. Last week, the group launched a first, 60-second radio spot, with actors with New York accents proclaiming "This is about protecting our freedom of choice."
*Hiring "several powerhouse political consultants," including the strategists responsible for the "Harry and Louise" TV ads that helped defeat President Bill Clinton's health care plan in the 1990's.
*Recruiting local businesses, unions and lawmakers to join the anti-regulation cause. Coca-Cola lobbyists have met with three likely mayoral candidates, and representatives of soda companies, local restaurants and movie theaters met with members of the City Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.
*Beverage-industry-hired canvassers are stopping New Yorkers on the street to solicit petition signatures, and beverage industry/brand Facebook and Twitter pages are urging consumers to "say no to a #sodaban."
If the restrictions pass despite its efforts, the industry is considering a court challege. A councilwoman who is a member of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus told the Times that she and other members might support such a court challenge, as they believe the restrictions would put a disproportionate financial burden on lower-income families and small businesses.