SF mayor bans sugar-added drinks from city vending machines

Across the country, various cities and states have attempted to declare war on sugary drinks, and have mainly failed.  New York eventually rejected Gov. David Paterson’s high-profile tax on sugar-enhanced soft drinks, as have others who see it as an intrusion on personal choice.  San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has succeeded where others have failed, but mainly by lowering his sights considerably (via Newsalert):

Coca-Cola is out, and soy milk is now part of San Francisco’s official city policy.

Under an executive order from Mayor Gavin Newsom, Coke, Pepsi and Fanta Orange are no longer allowed in vending machines on city property, although their diet counterparts are – up to a point.

Newsom’s directive, issued in April but whose practical impacts are starting to be felt now, bars calorically sweetened beverages from vending machines on city property.

That includes non-diet sodas, sports drinks and artificially sweetened water. Juice must be 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice with no added sweeteners. Diet sodas can be no more than 25 percent of the items offered, the directive says.

There should be “ample choices” of water, “soy milk, rice milk and other similar dairy or non dairy milk,” says the directive, which also covers fat and sugar content in vending machine snacks.

In one sense, this is much less objectionable than taxes.  After all, the city has jurisdiction over the vending machines in its facilities, and they have the prerogative to order whatever they want to fill it.  Those who do not like the selections can buy their drinks elsewhere, and almost certainly will.  The city may lose some revenue, but again that is their choice in the free-market role they assume in offering the vending machines.

On the other hand, is this really the highest priority in San Francisco?  California is in the middle of an economic meltdown.  Unemployment in San Francisco is actually better than the 12.6% statewide rate, but at 10.1% (May 2010, the most recent number) it’s still a huge problem.  What has Newsom done to whittle down the obesity in city government and incentive job creation?  Or is the “epidemic” of obesity Newsom’s singular focus?

Honestly, making decisions on vending machine inventory should be a two-paragraph story in the weekend section of the local newspaper.  The city has the right to make those decisions, although the Chronicle suggests that Newsom won’t stop there; he’s talking about a “fee” on retailers who sell sugary drinks that will do nothing to boost the economy, but instead will hike prices and force businesses to cut costs, most likely in labor.  Instead of grandstanding with the media by “fighting obesity” and attacking sugary soft drinks, maybe Newsom ought to consider doing the actual business of governing.