NYC plans to ban sales of sugary drinks over 16 ounces

Published May 31, 2012


The sin-tax sheriff is back on the job. 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing another ban on unhealthy foods. This time, he wants to outlaw super-sized sodas and other sugary drinks. 

The first-in-the-nation ban, formally announced Thursday, would limit sweet drinks to 16 ounces at venues across the city ranging from restaurants to street carts to movie theaters -- that means those extra-large cup holders at Loews are about to get awfully lonely. 

The ban, though, doesn't seem to take into account the obvious work-around. Want more than 16 ounces? Just buy two bottles. There's no Big Apple ban on doing that -- yet. 

Bloomberg's proposal hasn't quite joined the city's growing roster of other behavior-curbing laws like its bans on trans-fats and smoking. The Board of Health still needs to sign off on it, but according to that's likely to happen since the members are Bloomberg appointees. 

Bloomberg said Wednesday he "thinks it's what the public wants the mayor to do." 

But residents and businesses are divided on that count. 

A spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, Stefan Friedman, criticized the proposal as "zealous." He said officials should seek solutions that are actually going to curb obesity. 

The association said in a statement that the ban will not address obesity because "soda is not driving the obesity rates." 

Coca-Cola also released a statement arguing that the company already places calorie counts on the front of its products and that the ban is not needed. 

"The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes," the statement said. "New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase." 

One resident voiced support for the plan, telling "sodas are really unhealthy and I don't see any reason you need to drink 20 ounces of soda." 

But another noted soda addicts could just come back for refills: "A lot of people drink soda and regardless ... they will be buying more, and that's even worse." 

Conservative activists are meanwhile having a field day with the decision. 

Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, wrote on his blog Thursday that "there are a whole lot of things New Yorkers would rather King Michael be doing other than telling New Yorkers what they can or cannot drink." 

He argued: "It is time to move the Statue of Liberty." 

The ban, which could take effect as soon as March, would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks or alcoholic beverages. Nor would it include drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores. Food establishments that don't downsize would face fines of $200. 

Under the three-term mayor, the city has campaigned aggressively against obesity, including outlawing trans-fats in restaurant food and forcing chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. 

The Bloomberg 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, an idea federal regulars rejected. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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