MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants,movie theatres and street carts,in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis,fast-food franchises and even sports arenas,from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces about the size of a medium coffee,and smaller than a common soda bottle would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan,which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas,fruit juices,dairy-based drinks like milkshakes,or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
Obesity is a nationwide problem,and all over the United States,public health officials are wringing their hands saying,Oh,this is terrible, Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governors Room at City Hall.
New York City is not about wringing your hands; its about doing something, he said. I think thats what the public wants the mayor to do.
A spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association,an arm of the soda industrys national trade group,criticized the citys proposal on Wednesday. The industry has clashed repeatedly with the citys health department,saying it has unfairly singled out soda; industry groups have bought subway advertisements promoting their cause.
The New York City health departments unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top, the industry spokesman,Stefan Friedman,said. Its time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity. These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.
Bloombergs proposal requires the approval of the Board of Health,a step that is considered likely because the members are all appointed by him,and the boards chairman is the citys health commissioner,who joined the mayor in supporting the measure on Wednesday.
Bloomberg has made public health one of the top priorities of his lengthy tenure,and has championed a series of aggressive regulations,including bans on smoking in restaurants and parks,a prohibition against artificial trans fat in restaurant food and a requirement for health inspection grades to be posted in restaurant windows.