On the whole, Americans still consume too much of the sweet stuff, and sugar-sweetened drinks are a leading source of added sugars in the American diet. Several studies have linked frequent consumption of sugary drinks (a list that includes soda, sports drinks and bottled iced teas) to obesity, as well as disease states, including diabetes and heart disease. So, reducing intake levels in the population remains a key strategy in combating obesity and its related maladies. But race, income and geographic disparities exist in who gets targeted by beverage marketers, and this can play a role in consumption patterns.

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study assessed the density of outdoor, street-level advertisements featuring sugar-sweetened drinks in a random sample of low-, medium- and high-poverty neighborhoods in each of New York City’s five boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island). By doing so, the investigators—from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—determined that drink ad density was positively associated with an increased population of Black, non-Latino residents and, in some boroughs, there was a positive association with neighborhood poverty. So, if a borough had a demographic with a higher percentage of Black residents with lower economic status, it could very well be bombarded with more street ads flaunting sugar bomb drinks. This in turn would likely lead to higher consumption rates and greater chances of poor health. Future work should determine if this same trend in advertising holds true in other states.

Are you troubled by this inequity in where sugary drinks are advertised? What do you believe should be done to remedy this disparity? Or do you feel it’s still up to individuals to make their own dietary choices and advertisers should be free to work where they please?

Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

See also: Another Strike Against Liquid Sugar