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Posts Tagged ‘vending machines’

Re-Tooling Bottled Water Bans and Healthy Beverage Requirements to Serve Sustainability and Public Health Goals: A Constructive Path Forward

Monday, June 29th, 2015

By Cara Wilking, JD, PHAI Consulting Attorney

Researchers at the University of Vermont in Burlington (UVM) published a paper describing the impact of a campus bottled water ban that was paired with a healthy beverage requirement. The study found that removing bottled water from campus had no impact on the number of plastic bottles shipped to the campus, and resulted in higher consumption of unhealthy beverages. These results do not support the sustainability or public health goals of the bottled water ban: it failed to reduce plastic trash and carbon emissions or improve the nutrition profile of beverages consumed by students, faculty and staff on the UVM campus.

The study puts a fine point on a very practical tension that exists between two highly organized movements: the obesity and oral health prevention movements with a primary focus on shifting the public from caloric beverages to non-caloric beverages like water–for the most part regardless of how they are packaged; and a segment of the sustainability movement that has honed in on bottled water as a unique source of plastic trash, carbon emissions from its transportation, and a burden on communities from where it is extracted for packaging. The public health community regards bottled water as a healthy alternative to other drinks when consumers are choosing a beverage to buy, and the environmental community considers bottled water to be a needless source of pollution. The UVM study findings call out for solutions that meet the goals of both groups, and that combine their forces for a greater collective impact.

A constructive path forward is for both movements to work together to reduce access points for all packaged beverages. A key to the bottled beverage industry’s success has been to insert itself into every aspect of daily life. Vending machines are found in parks, schools, college campuses, recreation centers, etc. And coolers selling bottled beverages are placed at the end-caps of retail check-out lines, and fill the walls of convenience stores all over the country—including in places like college campuses. These access points haven’t always been there. They’ve been inserted via private contracts over time—these are contracts that are not required to be renewed and can be radically altered to support the environment and the public health.

A strategic focus on reducing total access points for packaged beverages benefits the environment through:

And benefits the public health through:

A focus on a total reduction of packaged beverages is timely because demand for sugary drinks is on the decline. This new path will require both movements to expand their thinking on their respective issues and entails political risks on both sides. The obesity prevention movement will have to move beyond efforts to change the product mix in existing vending machines and other retail sales outlets and embrace phase-outs of beverage vending machines and cooler equipment. A focus on an overall total reduction in sales of bottled beverages will not be cost-neutral in terms of revenues from bottled beverage sales. This will undoubtedly raise great opposition from the beverage industry and firms and institutions that profit from packaged beverage sales.

The environmental movement will have to expand its definition of bottled water to include water that has been carbonated, sweetened, flavored or brewed and packaged in plastic. A focus on bottled water alone has strategic benefits, especially on a college campus, because plain water can be accessed via drinking fountains. Moreover, allowing other packaged beverages to remain quells critics by providing choices beyond the drinking fountain. There, however, seem to be few discernible differences between bottled water and other bottled beverages: all have water as the primary ingredient, both may have been bottled at the same factory, both are placed in plastic containers, trucked in a vehicle, refrigerated in a machine, tossed into a trash or recycling receptacle, or not properly disposed of at all.

Both movements have built momentum and achieved many accomplishments. Imagine how much more progress can be made if they join forces.



PHAI Litigation the Focus of Boston Globe Editorial

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Today the Boston Globe’s Editorial Board published an editorial supporting the the Public Health Advocacy Institute’s efforts to stop automated lottery ticket sales to kids.

Earlier this month, PHAI filed a lawsuit against Star Markets and issued to consumer rights demand to Stop & Shop, two major regional grocery chains, on behalf of the father of a young teen who was able to purchase lottery tickets from vending machines in those stores with alarming ease.  The national membership advocacy organization, Stop Predatory Gambling, is also a plaintiff to the action.

The purpose of the litigation is to ensure that steps are taken to prevent prohibited sales of lottery tickets, including particularly addictive scratch tickets, to children by either requiring that the vending machines are disabled until age verification is performed or by removing the machines from locations where children are present.  It certainly does not help matters when candy displays and other vending machines are adjacent to the lottery vending machines, as we observed when recording purchases made by the plaintiff’s son.

Our goal is straightforward  – lottery vending machines ought to be treated in the same manner as vending machines for cigarettes, the only other age-restricted product sold through automated vending. Cigarette vending machines in Massachusetts can only be places in adults-only locations and must use a lock-out device that prevents the machine from being used for a purchase until age-verification has taken place and the machine is temporarily unlocked by remote control.

There are important public health and policy reasons why products like tobacco and gambling products are not to be sold to youth.  Automated vending tends to undermine the age-restriction and what we learned about cigarettes vending in the 1990s applies to lottery vending in 2015.




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