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Cambridge considers ban on large sugary drinks

Following in the footsteps of New York City, Cambridge is considering limiting the size of sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages in city restaurants.

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.

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“In addition to being an obesity threat, soda is one of the contributing factors to an increasing rate in diabetes and heart disease amongst younger people,” Davis said.

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.

Outside Cambridge City Hall Monday night the proposed size limits for sodas got mixed reviews.

Sophia Tálamas, 29, of Cambridge, said she thought there is a need for more healthy beverage options, but she doesn’t think the city should take away a person’s ability to get a soft drink.

“Sometimes you need a soda,” Tálamas said.

Axis Sivitz, 25, of Cambridge, said he thinks a limit would be fine.

“When faced with a health crisis, you have to do something about it,” Sivitz said.

Others hanging out in Central Square late Monday were completely opposed to the idea.

“I do think it’s a little bit ridiculous,” said 26-year-old Amanda, who lives in Malden and declined to give her last name.

Material from an Associated Press report was used in this story.
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