In an attempt to combat obesity, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks in the city’s restaurants, delis and movie theaters.
According to the Associated Press, the proposal is expected to be announced formally on Thursday in a City Hall briefing, and would take 20-ounce soda bottles off the shelves of the city’s delis and eliminate super-sized sugary soft drinks from fast-food menus.
“There they go again,” said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, who called the proposal “zealous” in a statement.
“The New York City Health Department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top. The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates.”
City Hall officials, citing a 2006 study, argue that sugary drinks are the largest driver of rising calorie consumption and obesity. They note that sweet drinks are linked to long-term weight gain and increased rates of diabetes and heart disease.
The administration’s proposal would impose a 16-ounce limit on the size of soft drinks sold at food service establishments, including restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. The ban would apply to bottled drinks and fountain sodas.
The ban would apply only to drinks that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It would not apply to diet soda or any other calorie-free drink, but any drink that is at least half milk or milk substitute would be exempted.
The ban, which could take effect as soon as March, would not apply to drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores that don’t serve prepared food. Establishments that don’t adhere to the band would face fines of $200 after a three-month grace period.
The proposal requires the approval of the city’s Board of Health – considered likely because Bloomberg appoints all its members.
Bloomberg has campaigned aggressively against obesity, outlawing trans-fats in restaurant food and forcing chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. The mayor has also led efforts to ban smoking in the city’s bars, restaurants, parks and beaches.
His administration has tried other ways to make soda consumption less appealing. The mayor supported a state tax on sodas, but the measure died in Albany, and he tried to restrict the use of food stamps to buy sodas, which federal regulators have rejected.
City Hall’s latest proposal does not require approval beyond the Board of Health, although public hearings will be held.
We appreciate the initiative and agree we should be taking measures to improve health in this society, but the choice to live a healthy lifestyle should be the individual’s. Give us options, not commandments.