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Survival of the Fizziest

Efforts to curb soft drink sales in schools went flat this month in both Maryland and Minnesota, despite concern among state legislators about the health effects of the drinks and what many see as a commercial invasion of public schools.

Members of the Senate education committee in Minnesota declined by a 29-6 vote to endorse a bill that would have banned sales of soda pop during the school day.

In Maryland, a broader bill limiting commercialism in schools—and including a provision similar to the Minnesota measure—went down to defeat in the Senate by a 26-18 vote.

In both states, school leaders and representatives of the soft drink and vending machine industries joined to quash the bills. They argued that schools could ill afford to lose the money that vending machine sales generate, and that regulation of food and drink sales was best left to districts.

"The members were very sympathetic, but they felt this was a local-control issue," said Sen. Sandra L. Pappas, a Democrat who is the chairwoman of Minnesota's Senate education committee.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, the Maryland Democrat who sponsored the bill there, called the situation in his state and elsewhere—where soft drinks are on sale during the school day under contracts with drink distributors worth thousands of dollars—"shameful and shameless."

Though flouted by many high schools in Maryland, federal rules prohibit soda sales in school cafeterias at meal times, and state regulations ban them during any part of the school day. Mr. Pinsky's bill would have forced districts to formulate policies on soft drink sales that at a minimum would reflect federal and state law.

The Maryland bill would also have prohibited advertising on school buses, clamped down on classroom materials with advertisements or company logos, and required schools to allow parents to keep their children from watching television programs at school that included advertising.

—Bess Keller

Vol. 20, Issue 28, Page 18

Published in Print: March 28, 2001, as State Journal

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