NYC's Latest Target: Sports Drinks and Sweetened Tea

'Pouring on the Pounds' Ads Also Goes After Energy Drinks, Fruit-Flavored Beverages

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New York City is at it again. The city's health department launched a new iteration of the long-running "Pouring on the Pounds" campaign, this time targeting sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and sweetened teas.

The ads, which will air on TV and be seen on city buses, warn New Yorkers about the dangers of sugary beverages that may "sound healthy." Past versions of the campaign have gone after soda.

In the latest series of ads, non-carbonated beverages are attacked for being packed with sugars that can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and complications like amputation, heart attack, vision loss and kidney failure. Outdoor ads show a sports drink bottle that's pouring nauseating globs of fat into a glass. The ads, slated to run through June, encourage New Yorkers to replace sugary beverages with water, seltzer, fat-free milk and fresh fruit.

"Sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit-flavored drinks sometimes sound like they're good for us, but they are contributing to the obesity epidemic just as much as sugary soft-drinks," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, in a statement.

The health department says sales of non-carbonated sugary drinks have risen substantially in recent years, and the ads are meant to warn New Yorkers who "may mistakenly believe that non-carbonated sugary drinks are healthy." According to the health department, data from the New York City Community Health Survey shows that, of the 10 city neighborhoods with the highest obesity rates, nine also boast the highest consumption of sugary drinks.

According to Beverage Marketing Corporation, energy drink volume rose 14% in 2012. Ready-to-drink tea rose 5% and sports drinks were up 2%. Those figures don't separate out unsweetened or lower-calorie options.

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo referred calls to the American Beverage Association.

Kevin Keane, a spokesman for the ABA, referenced a new study from the Centers for Disease Control that shows over a 12-year period, U.S. youth and adults lowered their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by 68 and 45 calories per day, respectively. Mr. Keane added that the ABA has reviewed the city's Community Health Survey and that its claims connecting consumption of sugary beverages and obesity don't "add up."

"This obsession that the New York City Health Department has for beverages is really unhealthy, because it's misleading New Yorkers. The contribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to diets is small and declining, yet obesity rates are going up," Mr. Keane said. "The facts don't match their rhetoric."

Last year the industry was extremely vocal in condemning New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the health department for attempting to institute a ban on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. That effort was struck down earlier this year by a New York Supreme Court Judge.

"The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes," Coca-Cola said in a statement, at the time. "We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve. …New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase."

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