Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) has issued an order that will require all city departments to take steps to stop “the sale, advertising, and promotion of sugary beverages on City-owned property.” The mayor is apparently concerned about setting an example in a community with high obesity rates that he attributes in part to the consumption of sweetened beverages. Under the executive order, only certain types of beverages will be sold in city cafeterias and vending machines and at city concession stands, or served during meetings, city-run programs and events catered with city funds.

After a six-month grace period, city buildings and departments must phase out the sale of “red” beverages, that is, “those loaded with sugar, such as non-diet sodas, pre-sweetened ice teas, refrigerated coffee drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks with added sugar and sports drinks.” The promotion of such beverages will be prohibited. “Green” beverages can continue to be sold; they consist of bottled water, flavored and unflavored seltzer water, low-fat and skim milk, and unsweetened soy milk. No more than one-third of city beverage offerings will include “yellow” beverages, or “diet sodas, diet iced teas, 100 percent juices, low-calorie sports drinks, low-sugar sweetened beverages, sweetened soymilk and flavored, sweetened milk.”

“This is the right step to be taking,” said Walter Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, who joined the mayor at the press conference announcing the ban. “We’re not punishing those individuals [who consume sugary beverages]. They’re going to be punished enough directly from the health consequences down the road.” See msnbc. com, April 7, 2011.