Dr. Thomas Farley
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013
Dear Commissioner Farley:
While we support New York City's efforts to address the obesity issue, we are concerned that singling out soda -- or any food -- as a unique contributor to obesity is misleading and actually does more harm than good. People suffering from overweight and obesity need to understand that there is no silver bullet or quick fix to achieving a healthy weight. Obesity is a complex issue, and as policy leaders, we must be careful not to send mixed messages about the solutions and remedies. The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking the soda industry alone because soda is not driving the obesity rates. In fact, sugar-sweetened beverages play a small and declining portion of the American diet -- just 7 percent of total calories. With 93 percent of the average American's calories coming from other foods and beverages, the city has failed to look at the bigger picture.
Not only are we concerned about the health of individuals struggling with their weight, New York City's proposal would also have a devastating impact on food and beverage industry jobs. This proposal targets an industry that is responsible for creating more jobs than any other during this very difficult economic time. In May 2012, the food and beverage industry alone drove 37 percent of economic growth in the United States. We simply cannot afford to risk American jobs, especially on a proposal that the Mayor himself has said may not work to achieve the desired goal.
In addition, we live in a time when people of all political persuasions are losing confidence in government institutions to act in their best interest. Such distrust is harmful to a democratic society. When public policy solutions become fodder for late-night comedians, that trust is further eroded. A majority of New Yorkers believe that what they eat and drink should be their choice -- not the government's. A NY1/Marist poll (June 2012) found that 53 percent of New Yorkers oppose this proposal, and a Rasmussen Reports poll (June 2012) found that 65 percent of American adults oppose a law that would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces. Just 24 percent favor a law like the one New York City has proposed as a way to fight obesity. Certainly the government has played an important role over the years of educating the public about healthy eating and lifestyle choices, and we believe that is a more effective way to change public opinion and behavior.
We are a representative democracy, and our constituents have sent us a strong message: they do not want this. We agree that the government has a vested interest in having healthy citizens and we support a comprehensive plan for achieving that goal. However, we believe that the issue at hand is not whether the government is doing enough to address obesity, but whether we are doing all that we can as effectively as we can. We do not believe that this proposal is a means to that end.
It is our hope that moving forward, you will consider our concerns and the concerns of your constituents.
Rep. Michael Grimm
Rep. Robert Turner