Soyonara, super sized soda. New York City plans to ban the sale of large sugary drinks—including sodas, sweetened coffees, and energy drinks—in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest move in the war against obesity.
The pioneering proposed amendment seeks to prohibit restaurants, fast-food establishments, food carts, and more from selling sugary beverages in cups or bottles larger than 16 ounces. In practical terms, that means you won’t be able to get your typical 20-ounce coke bottle from the pizza place anymore. The proposal could go into effect as early as next March.
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While the ban would affect food-service establishments, movie theaters, and ballpark concession stands, it wouldn’t extend to supermarkets, vending machines, or bodegas that don’t sell enough fresh food to fall under the city’s letter grading system. Violators would be slapped with a $200 fine.
Under the amendment, however, double-fisting 16-ounce sodas, multiple purchases, and unlimited refills are allowed.
This is perhaps Bloomberg’s boldest move during his tenure that has long been characterized by implementing public health initiatives, including requiring restaurant chains to display calorie counts and to cut back on sodium and trans fats. (Search: Does public health policy work?)
So why the war on sweet drinks? The Health Department believes that soda consumption is a leading factor in the city’s rising obesity rate, and can account for up to half of the increase. About 58 percent of city dwellers are overweight or obese. One-third of New Yorkers drink one or more sugary beverages a day. (Soda is an easy target, but do you know about these secretly sugary foods?)
Understandably, the beverage ban has drawn both praise and criticism as “zealous.”
"There they go again. The New York City Health Department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, in a statement.
“New York City’s health department deserves tremendous credit for recognizing the harm that sugary soft drinks cause in the form of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—and for doing something about it,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in a statement. “We hope other city and state public health officials adopt similar curbs on serving sizes and reducing Americans’ exposure to these nutritionally worthless products.”