Sugar-sweetened beverage sales in city buildings to end next month

Posted on September 7, 2011


As Boston prepares to phase out sugary drink sales in city-owned buildings, Mayor Thomas M. Menino today unveiled a hard-hitting public awareness campaign to get residents to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which he and public health officials linked to rising obesity rates and its impact on higher health care costs.
The campaign, developed by the Boston Public Health Commission, targets parents and caregivers who often make grocery-buying decisions for the household, and teens and young adults who consume more sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas, and other sugar-sweetened beverages than any other age group, according to a new US government nutrition study.

“With the launch of this campaign, I’m asking all parents in the city of Boston to join me in taking responsibility for helping young people choose healthier foods and beverages. And I’m asking youth – especially teenagers – to take a leadership role among your peers and push them to make healthier choices,’’ Mayor Menino said.

The campaign, funded by the US Department of Health & Human Services through an initiative called Communities Putting Prevention to Work, starts this week with a media blitz that includes TV, radio, MBTA, web, print, and billboard advertising. It launches a month before Mayor Menino’s executive order to phase out the sale, advertising, and promotion of sugar-sweetened beverages in municipal buildings is set to take effect.
Signed in April, the executive order gave city buildings and departments until Oct. 7 to phase out the sale of so-called “red’’ beverages, or those that, based on science, are known to be loaded with sugar – such as non-diet sodas, pre-sweetened ice teas, refrigerated coffee drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and juice drinks with added sugar. The order also prohibits the promotion of “red’’ beverages in city buildings through sponsorship agreements with city departments, including banners and advertising panels on vending machines. The new rules apply to cafeterias, vending machines, concession stands, and beverages served at meetings, city-run programs, and events where food is purchased with city dollars. City officials say they will honor existing vendor contracts, but that once those expire, the new restrictions will kick in.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said the public awareness campaign gives the city an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the health effects of sugar-sweetened beverages to a much broader audience, beyond just city employees.

“This campaign is a unique opportunity for Boston residents to have a real dialogue about how sugary beverages contribute to obesity rates and lead to other preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes,’’ she said. “The nation spends $147 billion a year to treat obesity-related health conditions and Boston is not immune to that. It costs more to treat obese patients than a patient with a healthy weight,’’ Dr. Ferrer added.

The public awareness campaign specifically targets blacks and Latinos, who have higher obesity rates than other racial groups. According to Boston Public Health Commission data, about 63 percent of black adults and 51 percent of Latino adults in Boston are considered overweight or obese, compared to 49 percent of white adults.

A similar pattern was found in the federal government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination survey released last week, which analyzed data between 2005 and 2008. It reported that among adults 20 years and older, sugary beverages make up 8.6 percent of blacks’ caloric intake, compared to 5.3 percent of whites’.

The public awareness campaign includes an ad called “Protection,’’ which is a series of vignettes showing measures that parents take to protect their kids – strapping them into a safety seat, adjusting their helmets – before asking if they also know how dangerous sugary beverages can be. The ad urges parents to give their kids healthier options, such as water, seltzer, and low-fat milk because, “After all, they are sweet enough already.’’

A second ad developed by the Boston Public Health Commission’s Youth Media Council that targets Boston youths illustrates how the empty calories in sugary drinks can add up to fat. In this ad, a glob of fat flies at youths when they drink a sugary beverage. “Don’t get smacked by fat,’’ the ad says. “Calories from sugary drinks can cause obesity and type 2 diabetes.’’

More information about the campaign can be found at www. and

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