Sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages can kill you. Too much of either will cause obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And these are the illnesses that overwhelmingly impact African Americans and Latinos, especially those who reside here in the D.C. area. It is also the reason why two local pastors have filed a lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest soft drink companies and the nation’s largest non-alcoholic beverage association for failing to disclose the health risks of these products to their consumers.
Pastor William Lamar of Metropolitan African American Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and Pastor Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., filed their lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association, claiming there is an epidemic that is taking a toll on families and children that overly consume sugary drinks and that it “is a matter of life and death in our communities.”
This lawsuit is not the only threat to business these companies are facing. Four cities — Philadelphia, Boulder, San Francisco and Seattle — have passed sugary beverage taxes. Massachusetts is the first state to consider legislation to tax sugary drinks including sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and other beverages with added sugar. These taxes reportedly have generated significant revenue for education and other local programs. They have also significantly reduced consumption of sugary drinks while increasing the consumption of water. On the other hand, these companies warn about the negative impact a beverage tax has on local businesses and jobs.
Coca-Cola is undoubtedly a popular global brand with a significant history of funding local and national community-based programs and events, often targeted toward the Black community. But when it comes to our health, compromise is difficult especially when state legislators, and now pastors, believe they have a responsibility to their voters and worshipers who are not making the best health decisions for themselves and their families.
We do not criticize nor commend Pastors Lamar and Coates for the legal action they have taken. However, we believe their action should be a reminder that the responsibility of healthy living and moderate consumption rests with the individual consumer. When poor choices are made, more education is needed.