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BILL RADKE: People who use food stamps can’t use them to buy cigarettes or alcohol. Now New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to add soda to that list. Marketplace’s Eve Troeh is here live to talk about it. Good morning, Eve.
EVE TROEH: Good morning.
RADKE: The mayor says this would save people money. How’s that?
TROEH: Well he says if families can’t use their food stamps to buy soda and other sugar drinks like Kool-Aid, they’ll have more money to spend on more nutritious food. He wants to test this plan for two years to see if people get healthier when they can’t buy sugar drinks on government money. Diet soda would actually be OK.
Mayor Bloomberg’s on something of a crusade against soft drinks. Earlier this year he proposed a tax of one penny per ounce for soda. Grocery stores and the beverage industry fought hard against that. The tax didn’t go through. But this is another way to attack the issue.
RADKE: Why is this such an important issue for Mayor Bloomberg?
TROEH: Bloomberg is big on health in general. He banned smoking in bars. He banned trans fats in restaurants. And he believes if New Yorkers drink less sugar, diabetes and obesity will go way down. That would save the city lots of money on health care.
RADKE: But Eve, other attempts at banning soft drinks haven’t gone so great, have they?
TROEH: Right. Bloomberg needs permission from the Department of Agriculture to do this. He asked for that today. But the agency has never restricted anything from food stamps because it’s not nutritious enough. Minnesota tried a few years ago, got shot down. Last year Maine tried it with soda, also got shot down. But since Bloomberg’s just asking to try it for two years, things might be different this time.
RADKE: OK. Marketplace’s Eve Troeh, thank you.
TROEH: Thank you.
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