Bloomberg’s Soda Ban Fizzled, But Oklahoma City is Keeping Off the Pounds

New Yorkers can hold their enormous beverages high today. The state’s top court struck down former Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to ban large sugary drinks in the city, ruling that the New York City Board of Health didn’t have the authority to enact such a ban. Bloomberg left a strong public health legacy, but this is a tough blow.

In an interview with Fusion, another notably health-conscious mayor drew distinctions between his approach and Bloomberg’s.

“The difference is we didn’t try to create behavioral changes,” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said of his straightforward effort to put his city on a diet. “We wanted companies to work with us. The message is we can work together.”

In 2007, Cornett called on the residents of his city to drop a collective one million pounds–a goal they reached in 2012.

Cornett’s grassroots, community-based diet and fitness approach stands in some contrast to Bloomberg’s push to legislate and regulate his city to a healthier lifestyle. It also had a personal touch: Cornett made his own weight-loss goals central to the campaign, which didn’t cost the city itself a cent. He encouraged local businesses like gyms and restaurants to join in with related promotions and events. The New York Times noted today that the soda ban never received popular support, while Cornett’s program was covered on Ellen and led to a TED Talk. He’s kept the momentum going with initiatives to make the city’s streets more lively and walkable, and he’s working on offshoot programs in other cities.

Bloomberg’s vision was certainly ambitious, and it got many people to consider the negative impacts of sugary drinks. It also attracted powerful enemies. Credit Big Beverage with the victory today. Legal, lobbying, and advertising opposition flowed in from the soft-drink industry as soon as Bloomberg announced his ban proposal in 2012. This may be a setback for the healthy mayor movement, but there are secure foundations for the next wave of public health programs.

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