In an attempt to lower the rate of childhood obesity (at least in their city), Baltimore has a new law on the books that bans restaurants from serving sugary drinks to kids.
The Baltimore City Healthy Kids Meals Bill, signed by Mayor Catherine Pugh earlier this year—declaring that water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice are now the default beverage options for all kids' meals offered at restaurants in the city—went in effect last Wednesday.
“The science is clear: One of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is sugary drinks, and childhood obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and early death,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner. “Taking out empty calories from sugary drinks is a powerful lifestyle change we can make to help our children to get and stay healthy."
In fact, according to one study, a typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and upwards of 240 calories, and those consuming one to two cans or more of "liquid candy" a day have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Wen, who appeared on Fox45 Baltimore last week to talk about the ban, said she sees a lot as a physician.
“I'm now seeing children who weigh over 200 pounds, have adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, even heart problems,” she said. “This is one small thing that we can do to enable the healthy choice."
I'm now seeing children who weigh over 200 pounds, have adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, even heart problems.
The city is part of a growing crusade to encourage healthy eating by making the choice easy for parents. Baltimore is the first (and largest) U.S. city on the East Coast—joining seven cities in California, the county of Santa Clara, California, and the city of Lafayette, Colorado—to enforce the new legislation, following the American Heart Association’s recommendation that children over the age of 2 drink a maximum of one 8-ounce sugary drink a week.
“This is a monumental victory for the city of Baltimore as it moves closer to a culture of health,” Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland, wrote in a previous release on the website. Last week, she reinforced her commitment again by sharing the group’s enthusiasm:
“Our coalition is excited that Baltimore is improving the health of its children by making healthier choices easier to make," she wrote. "With one in three school-aged Baltimore children unable to maintain a healthy weight, we strongly believe this bill will help address the health crisis facing Baltimore’s youngest residents.”
Baltimore restaurants that don’t comply with the ordinance will reportedly face a $100 penalty.
“They have to at least put a sticker on, have signage [on the menus]. Their online menus have to be changed because that’s an easy fix,” McIntosh told USA Today, but kids can still drink soda at city restaurants if an accompanying adult orders it for them.