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Beverages Make Headlines

A small business organization is cheering the overturning of New York City's soda ban at the same time as a Suffolk County doctor and legislator prepares to testify before the U.S. Senate about energy drink marketing.

A state appeals court has ruled that New York City’s plan to ban large sugary drinks from restaurants and other eateries was an illegal overreach of executive power, upholding a lower court decision back in March that struck the law down and dealt a blow to the outgoing Bloomberg administration.

The ban would have prevented restaurants, movie theaters, and certain other establishments from selling any sugary beverage larger than 16 ounces. National Federation of Independent Business New York State Director Mike Durant.

“Government officials whose powers are limited by state and federal laws can’t be allowed to steamroll the rights of private businesses and consumers even if their motivations are laudable.”

He said that victory in the Soda case won’t by itself make New York City an Eden for small businesses, but it does send a message to ambitious politicians and bureaucrats that they’ll be challenged when they step over the line.

“It’s easy to regard this is a frivolous issue but it goes to heart of the free enterprise system.  If the city can get away with banning soda it can make a case for banning anything else that attracts the disapproval of politicians and activists.  And the consequences extend beyond the city limits.”

In recent years, Bloomberg has pushed through bans on smoking in all public places, trans-fats in foods, alcohol sales and, most controversially, the sale of 16-ounce soft drinks.  Bloomberg's administration has already indicated it will appeal the latest decision.

Meantime, Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer, who led a successful local effort to ban the marketing of energy drinks to minors, tells WAMC he plans to testify Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee in Washington in hopes of getting a similar ban imposed nationwide.

"It is even more egregious for athletes, kids in schools, kids that are in school playing, maybe even high school sports, to believe that energy drinks somehow will make you a better athlete, because they will not," said Dr. Spencer. "But, yet, this industry insists on calling their products energy drinks. They are not energy drinks. They give you a caffeine high and a sugar high and then you crash. They reduce your performance and add to fatigue....we are talking about children."

Spencer added that he would "not advise any parent to give their child one cup of coffee, and never multiple cups. This is about telling our children at a very young, very early age that it's okay to drink these products because you're going to feel great. These seemingly benign stimulants can be a precursor and gateway to using other drugs and alcohol as teenagers look for that next and better high feeling."

Spencer says advertisers for the drinks, which include brands like Monster, Red Bull and Rock Star, spend more than $130 million annually on samples and marketing campaigns targeting children under 18 for a product that is not recommended for minors.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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