Some on D.C. Council favor restricting sugary drinks

Council support for ban grows

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 2:22 pm

How do you feel about a possible ban on large, sugary drinks? Is there a need or should people make their own decisions? Post a comment in this story, comment on WTOP’s Facebook Page or use #WTOP on Twitter.

Mark Segraves, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Several members of the D.C. Council have come out in favor of restricting the sizes of sugary sodas sold in the District – a ban similar to one in New York City.

At a recent debate between candidates for the at-large council seats, current Councilmembers Michael Brown and Vincent Orange said without hesitation they would vote to ban the sale of large drinks.

That news was music to Councilmember Mary Cheh’s ears.

“I’m very excited by that,” said Cheh (D-Ward 3), who fell one vote short of passing a tax on sodas and other sugary drinks.

Cheh authored the Healthy Schools Act and says she thinks the New York City ban is a good idea she’d like to bring to the nation’s capital.

“If I could get the votes to do it I would certainly try to put that in place,” Cheh tells WTOP.

“I would consider legislation to do that, I would like to see that done,” she added.

While Cheh, Orange and Brown are the only three elected officials to come out in support of the ban, several others say they are open to a ban, including Mayor Vincent Gray.

“I think there probably are some good health reasons to support something like that,” Gray said. “We’ll be happy to look at it, we haven’t taken a position on that one way or another.”

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson agreed it’s an idea worthy of consideration.

“The issue of nutrition is of critical importance to public health. We need to look at different strategies so people understand what the effect is of the large volume of soft drinks they’re drinking,” Mendelson said.

Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) also was open to considering a ban.

“I am open to anything that will help young people be healthier,” Wells said.

But some councilmembers are either opposed or leery of telling people what size drinks they can buy and sell.

“I think people can choose what to eat or drink,” said Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).

Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) wasn’t ready to say no, but he’s a long way from voting yes for a ban.

“I think sometimes we go too far in these areas,” he said.

Despite the criticism she knows she’ll take from some colleagues and residents, Cheh isn’t shying away from legislating some food choices.

“I know ‘nanny state’ and all that, but it’s appropriate for government to intervene at times to make sure that the choices that are presented are healthy for us,” she says.

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