Hawaii Looks to Ban Soda

130501_SUG_ColaDrinkProving that bad ideas are indeed a highly contagious epidemic, another jurisdiction is considering following the lead of New York City’s soda ban, which has been put on hold by a court. The Hawaii State Senate has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 2693, that would ban the sale of regular soda and similar sugar-sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces anywhere in the state.

The bill lacks one flaw of the New York proposal—there’s no “latte loophole,” since any quantity of added sugar makes a drink fall under the ban. Indeed, the only way to get more than a pint of drink at a time is to add booze, as adult beverages are excluded from the ban.

Also, there’s no provision for refills, which neuters the bill’s purported goals, and the Hawaii Administrative Rules indicate that the bill would ban the sale of these soft drinks in grocery stores as well as restaurants. (Who drinks two liters of regular soda or a liter of sweet tea by themselves in one sitting?) This is a hideous oversight, as people who are having parties who would otherwise buy standard 2-Liter bottles buy multiple containers for the same soft drinks, increasing waste.

So the policy is overbroad and will probably increase Hawaii’s production of garbage. One thing it won’t do is reduce obesity. Soft drinks provide only seven percent of Americans’ daily calorie intake (there’s no reason to suspect Hawaiians are much different here). Indeed, declining soft drink sales likely mean they contribute fewer calories now than they did in 2010, when the National Institutes of Health most recently compiled data. The ban’s effects on obesity would likely be trivial.

And there’s a warning for politicians who wish to push stunts like this: Soda bans aren’t favored by the public. Nationally, the Pew Research Center finds that almost 70 percent of Americans oppose soda size bans like Hawaii’s proposal. Even liberal New Yorkers reject the plan, with a Quinnipiac Poll finding 57 percent of NYC residents want new Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop trying to implement his predecessor’s anti-consumer policy. Hawaii should let S.B. 2693 die.

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