Cambridge, Mass., Considers Soda Ban

by Patrick Brennan

The mayor of Cambridge has proposed a ban on soda in the city’s restaurants, with the proposal reading as follows:

WHEREAS: High intake of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of obesity and diabetes; and

WHEREAS: New York City has a plan to limit the serving size of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages sold in restaurants; now therefore be it

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to refer the matter of a ban on soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants to the Cambridge Public Health Department for a recommendation. 

But it turns out that she didn’t mean an absolute ban, but one similar to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal, which has been derided from right and left. The Globe reports on her proposal at the People’s Republic’s city-council meeting last night:

Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis proposed the idea at the council’s meeting Monday night, saying she brought the idea forward because of the health risks caused by consuming too much soda.

Davis said the ban she had in mind is similar to that recently proposed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that would impose a 16-ounce limit on any sugary bottled or fountain drink that contains more than 25 calories per 8 ounces that is served at restaurants, delis, and movie theaters. The New York City proposal would not affect diet soda or any drink that is at least 70 percent juice, or half milk or milk substitute.

But Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung said he was befuddled to see the proposal because there has been such a backlash against the idea in New York City. Cheung said the soda ban in New York has been ridiculed in the media, and is almost a nightly subject of the political comedy program “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Comedy Central.

“Before launching ourselves into the middle of another maelstrom, I would want to see how that sorted itself out in New York,” Cheung said.

Davis said she would like to see what recommendations Cambridge’s Public Health Department would make about limiting serving sizes in local restaurants.

City Councilor Minka vanBeuzekom said she supports the idea of limiting the size of sodas because of the health concerns. “It’s a very good thing to try and pursue, and in my opinion to ban, but it won’t be easy,” she said. The council voted to refer the proposal to its health subcommittee to explore.

Mayor Davis, notably, holds a degree in community organizing from Boston College’s school of social work, and is a self-proclaimed advocate of the “earthy, crunchy agenda.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been amended.

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