Prof. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition, joined Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at a City Hall press conference on April 7, 2011, announcing a new executive order requiring a phase out over the next six months of the sale and advertisement of sugar-sweetened beverages from city property. The move is intended to set an example for the city and to “create a civic environment that makes the healthier choice the easier choice in people’s lives,” Menino said.

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages account for up to 10 percent of total calories consumed in the U.S. diet, and are known to be major contributors to obesity. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, about 63 percent of black adults, 51 percent of Latino adults, and 49 percent of while adult residents in Boston are considered overweight or obese. Nearly 30 percent of preventable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, arthritis, heart attacks and strokes, are linked to obesity in adults.

“There is abundant evidence that the huge increase in soda consumption in the past 40 years is the most important single factor behind America’s obesity epidemic. These steps will greatly assist in creating a new social norm, in which healthier beverages are the preferred choice,” Willett said.