NEW YORK CITY -- New York City plans to be the first municipality in the nation to ban the sale of large-sized sodas and other sugary beverages, in an effort to curb rising obesity.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal would impose a 16-fl.oz. limit on the size of sugary drinks sold at restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. It would apply to bottled and fountain drinks.
The measure would apply only to drinks that contain more than 25 calories per 8-fl.oz. serving. It would not extend to diet sodas, fruit juices, milk-based drinks or alcoholic beverages.
The ban, which could take effect as soon as next March, would not apply to drinks sold in vending machines, grocery or convenience stores that don't serve prepared food. However, corner stores and all other establishments that receive a letter grade on foodservice from the Health Department would have to comply with the ban. Establishments that don't comply would face a $200 fine after a three-month grace period.
The New York City Board of Health will vote on the measure in June. Its approval is considered likely because all of the agency's members are appointed by Bloomberg and the board's chairman is city health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, who has publicly joined the mayor in supporting the measure. Farley blames sugary drinks for up to half of the increase in city obesity rates over the last 30 years. About a third of New Yorkers drink one or more sugary drinks a day, according to the city.
Mayor Bloomberg has made legislation and regulation designed to improve health one of his top priorities. During his 10 years in office, the city has banned trans fat in restaurant food, prohibited smoking in restaurants and parks and required chain restaurants to post calorie contents next to prices. The city has also placed graphic ads targeting junk food and tobacco in public transit.
Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, criticized the city's proposal, saying it unfairly singles out soda. "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. It's time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity," he said.