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NY Soda Ban Opponents Bring Race Into the Debate

In case you hadn’t heard, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg won his battle with “big soda”, banning extra-large servings of sugar water via a unanimous City Board of Health vote. The ban will take effect in March, but this doesn’t mean the conflict is over–far from it. See, Coca-Cola may admit to making Americans fat, but the world’s biggest brand will continue to fight for its right to sell ridiculously oversized portions to anyone who cares to buy them.

Now comes the next phase–and big soda chose a very interesting PR approach this time by enlisting the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation to argue against the ban on racial terms. During the first courtroom arguments in the class action suit filed against Bloomberg and the city, representatives from these organizations argued that the ban would disproportionately “hurt small and minority-owned businesses while doing little to help health” and placing said businesses at a further disadvantage when compared to their larger rivals. Of course, soda also plays a crucial role in boosting obesity rates within minority communities, but we’ll just forget about that for now.

Here’s the real shocker: these groups don’t just receive lots of donations from Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink brands; they also give them awards for outstanding “corporate leadership”. This isn’t to say that social advocacy groups should be immune to the usual lobbying nonsense, but the completely unsurprising revelation does damage the credibility of this particular PR initiative while simultaneously diluting the larger and far more important mission of these civil rights advocacy groups. It’s very unfortunate.

One thing that does really bother us about this ban: it will exclude 7-Eleven, home of the famous “Big Gulp”. Why? Because, for some reason, the city can’t legally regulate convenience and supermarket chains (which are slowly smothering its classic bodegas). That’s just dumb.

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