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Baltimore City Councilman Introduces Bill That Would Require Health Warnings on Sugary Drinks

In an effort to combat the disturbing trend of childhood obesity in Baltimore, a local politician has introduced a bill that would add warning labels to sugar-sweetened drinks.


According to local news affiliate WBAL TV, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby and City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen introduced the bill before the Baltimore City Council on Monday night.


The proposed bill would require Baltimore restaurants and retailers to post this message in plain sight for customers, particularly children, to see: “Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar contributes to tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes.”


About 31% of adults suffer from tooth decay, and many of these cases are directly related to the over-consumption of sugary beverages in adolescence. However, the crux of Mosby and Wen’s proposal is to curb the growing rate of childhood obesity in the Greater Baltimore area.

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“(It’s) a substance that is harming and killing our residents,” Wen said during Monday’s city council meeting.


The Baltimore Health Department says that 33% of school-aged Baltimore children are overweight or obese, and 25% of local children drink at least one soda per day.


If passed, the bill would require sellers and advertisers of sugary drinks to pay a $500 fine for noncompliance.


Several members of Baltimore business associations claim that the bill would have a negative impact on a city that is trying to recover from a difficult year, both socially and economically.


“Struggling, existing retailers will leave as they are saddled with yet another cost and competitive disadvantage. This bill is bad for retailers, bad for the hospitality industry, and bad for the great city of Baltimore,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, President of the Maryland Retailers Association.


According to The Baltimore Sun, support for the bill from other local politicians has also been lukewarm.


Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is “not planning to take an active role” in passing the bill, and councilmen Ed Reisinger and Carl Stokes said they want more information before declaring support or opposition.


“I want to be at the hearing and hear exactly what the purpose is, and what the cost may be to the consumer as well as the businesses,” said Stokes. “We have to see what impact it truly will have.”


Despite this divisive reaction from both sides on the issue, some Baltimore restaurant owners are taking the proposal with a grain of salt.


“First of all, I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere, and if it does, then people won’t even see it,” said Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon in Baltimore.


The bill was moved to the Baltimore Health Committee on Monday. There is no timetable for when it may be approved or rejected.

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