Staten Island Borough President James Oddo Initiates Voluntary 'Fizz Free February' Movement On Social Media

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There has been another push by politicians to wean New Yorkers off sugar sodas.

But this time it’s different. It’s a voluntary social media campaign called “Fizz Free February.”

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It apparently started on Staten Island by Borough President James Oddo, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

It’s an idea Oddo borrowed from a similar campaign in Britain. The goal is to get Staten Islanders, and all New Yorkers, to voluntarily wean themselves off sugary drinks by connecting the dots between sugar and poor health.

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No doubt about it, Americans have a sweet tooth. On average each of us consumes about 150 pounds of refined sugar a year. That amounts to more than a quarter million empty calories and no nutritional value. Aside from contributing to the national obesity crisis, experts now know sugar also has some other very serious health consequences.

“It raises triglycerides and increases inflammatory markers, and what happens is this leads to heart disease and potentially even cancer,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum of Mount Sinai Hospital.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

With America having 30 million diabetics and another 80 million pre-diabetics, Oddo said something has to be done.

“We have to do a better job of explaining that there is a connection between illness, the death, the premature death and our lifestyles,” Oddo said.

So Oddo has declared this to be Fizz Free February, a social media campaign similar to the British version to educate the public that much, if not most, of the excess sugar Americans consume comes in the form of sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks. For example, one 20-ounce soda contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.

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It’s an idea that quickly generated some push-back.

“It doesn’t seem like something the government should get involved in. I feel like that’s a personal choice,” resident Brittany Daniels said.

“I don’t want a campaign against me not doing something on my own freewill,” Catherene Esteves added.

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But this is not the controversial sugar tax or another example of nanny state actions. It’s a strictly voluntary persuasion, CBS2’s Gomez reported.

“What we’re tried to do since we’ve gotten to Borough Hall is to talk to those folks who want to live a healthier lifestyle,” Oddo said.

Making it voluntary seems to change people’s views on the campaign.

“Probably the best way to go, voluntary, and just educating the families,” Claire Burke said.

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With nearly $1 in $5 in the economy going to health care, there’s a lot of money to be saved if people followed a healthier lifestyle. Oddo and others say a good place to start is by kicking the can — the soda can.

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He also pointed out that after a previous anti-soda campaign in school, there was a marked increase in water consumption.