NYC’s New anti-soda ads ‘misguided’ says the ABA

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has rolled out its second series of anti-soda advertisements – but they have been derided by the American Beverage Association as a “scare campaign.” While the new posters are meant to raise consumer awareness of some beverages’ sugar content and are somewhat less shocking last year’s ‘Piling on the Pounds’ initiative, the ABA begs to differ.

In a recent statement, the ABA asserted that the Health Department “wrongly singles out soft drinks in a misguided attempt to combat obesity” and it points out that the industry has increased efforts to feature low and no-calorie beverage options – something the ad campaign does not tell consumers. Instead, the posters show a large soda cup into which sugar packets are pouring their contents, and the words “Your Kid Just Ate 26 Packets of Sugar.”

Recent figures from the Community Health Survey’s (CHS) Daily Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in New York City reveal a significant decline in the number of consumers choosing sugary drinks. In 2007, almost 36 percent of consumers had at least one sugary beverage daily and in 2009, that number dropped to approximately 32 percent.

City officials believe at least some of that reduction is the result of their aggressive marketing approach. The ABA, however, would rather consumers and industry professionals focus on the notion that such positive change may have been prompted by initiatives like its School Beverage Guidelines – which has helped cut available beverage calories in schools nationwide – and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program. Combined with an industry commitment to showing more detailed nutrition information on beverage labels, the ABA says it anticipates its efforts will “have lasting and meaningful impact,” above and beyond so-called “misguided” poster campaigns.