A Bloomberg-style soda ban for D.C.?

October 22, 2012

No 20-ounce sugary soda for you! (George Frey/Bloomberg)

Saturday’s at-large D.C. Council debate was informative, newsmaking and lots of fun — if, as a co-moderator, I do say so myself. One patch of relatively virgin political territory was explored when WTOP’s Mark Segraves asked the four participating candidates whether they would support a ban on large sugary sodas in the city, a la what Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed through in New York in a bid to reduce obesity.

Incumbents Michael A. Brown (I) and Vincent Orange (D) said they would support such a law, as well as independent challenger David Grosso. Only Republican Mary Brooks Beatty was against the idea.

Mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said it “sounds interesting” but Hizzoner has no immediate plans to push for a Bloombergian ban. “We’d have to have lots of hearings, and we’d have to look at lots of science before deciding on something like that,” he said.

Two D.C. Council members historically sympathetic to aggressive behavioral intervention by the government have somewhat disparate attitudes toward soda laws.

“I’m open to it, but I think there would need to be certainly a broader discussion,” said Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who shepherded the city’s five-cent bag tax into law and now says a Big Gulp ban is “not on my front burner” at the moment. “We need to hear from the health officials in the city. I don’t know to the degree politicians should lead on this.”

But Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who tried unsuccessfully to levy a one-cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugary soda in 2010, said Monday she’d “certainly be keen to look at it.”

“I have watched closely as Mayor Bloomberg has moved on this issue,” she said. “Obviously, we’re going to have to do our own homework. But if there’s support on the council, I would certainly want to put it forth and explore it.”

Note that Bloomberg’s large-soda ban was ordered by New York’s appointed Board of Health, not the city council. The beverage industry is challenging the ban in court, arguing that it should instead have been implemented by the elected council.

Listen here at 59:55:

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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Mike DeBonis · October 22, 2012