Photo: Jewel Samad, AFP / Getty Images
Boston's long-time mayor, Thomas M. Menino just made quenching the thirst of city-workers that much harder. According to The Boston Globe, Menino issued an executive order to phase out sugary drinks from all city property in an effort to curb rising obesity rates. So long non-diet sodas. Adios sweet tea. Arrivederci you sexy sports drinks, you.
City departments have six months to phase out the sinister sugary beverages in cafeterias, vending machines, concession stands and during city-run meetings. And just in case parched public workers aren't quite sure what constitutes a healthy beverage, the Boston Public Health Commission is applying the familiar red, yellow and green labels to drinks, and reinforced by nearby posters that say, "Stop. Rethink Your Drink. Go On Green."
According to a release from the Mayor's office, "red" beverages include non-diet sodas, sweetened ice teas, sports drinks, etc. Diet sodas and diet iced teas, 100 percent fruit juices and low calorie sports drinks qualify as "yellow" beverages, while "green" drinks mean bottled water, low fat milk or unsweetened soy milk. Mmmm. Unsweetened soy milk -- yum.
Boston's not alone in trying to combat obesity through mandated choices. Cities like San Francisco, San Antonio, Los Angeles County and New York City have also set standards to limit or prohibit the sale or distribution of unhealthy food -- including sugary drinks.
There's some proof this type of food policing works. Two years after the Boston Public Schools removed soda and unhealthy snacks from vending machines, data showed that overall consumption of sugary drinks decreased significantly.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said in the long term, the policy will decrease healthcare costs for Boston and will positively impact productivity.
Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages account for up to 10 percent of total calories consumed in the U.S. diet, and are known to be major contributors to obesity. According to Ferrer's office, about 63 percent of black adults, 51 percent of Latino adults and 49 percent of white adult Boston residents are considered overweight or obese. What it boils down to is health care costs.
"Economists estimate that medical costs for an obese patient are about 42 percent higher a year than for a patient with a healthy weight," said Dr. Ferrer in the city's press release.
Which makes us wonder what's next? A ban on smokeless tobacco at Fenway? Doh! Wait...