Friday, April 19, 2024

Wait, how big is that Coke? Cambridge is considering limiting the size of sugared drinks that can be served in restaurants. (Photo: Michael Young)

Cambridge is looking at limiting what size sodas and other sugary drinks can be served in its restaurants, but first the mayor had to correct her own order asking for the study.

“It may sound like a ban on all soda, but no, it’s not. It’s a similar kind of ban on serving size [as New York is studying] — I think 16 or 18 ounces or maybe there’s another serving size that our Public Health Department would recommend,” Mayor Henrietta Davis said at the Monday meeting of the City Council.

Davis’ three-sentence policy order was meant to follow a ban proposed in New York City “to limit the serving size” of the drinks, she explained, but instead accidentally went whole hog, asking for a study on “the matter of a ban on soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants” in Cambridge.

The idea is to protect kids from the threats of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, she said, and her cause got a boost when Dr. Avra Goldman, medical director of the East Cambridge Health Center, spoke during public comment to support what she indicated was something of a desperation measure. “We primary caregivers feel like we’ve beat our heads against a wall. There’s so much out in the environment that works against families, against people trying to lose weight, against children and against doctors. The environment has to change,” Goldman said. “Children can’t control what’s in their environment, and it’s very hard when there are so many temptations around.”

“A tax on soda would be preferable from my point of view,” she said. “But I feel like any step we can take to fight it will help all of us.”

Davis’ proposal won support from some fellow councillors, including Marjorie Decker and Ken Reeves, who were first to suggest the matter also be looked at by the council’s Health Committee.  Minka vanBeuzekom called size limits a difficult accomplishment but “a very good thing to try to pursue.”

Leland Cheung was a skeptic, noting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal in New York City had provoked public backlash and ridicule from the press — including on a nightly basis from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

“Before launching ourselves into the middle of another media maelstrom I would want to see how that all sorts out in New York,” Cheung said.

Too late. The council passed the policy order as amended by Davis, a former journalist.