New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Source: New York Times
May 30, 2012
New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of
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
theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the
to combat rising
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
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,'” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on
Wednesday in the Governor's Room at City Hall.
"New York City is not about wringing your
hands; it's about doing something,” he said. "I think that's what the public
wants the mayor to do.”
A spokesman for the New York City Beverage
Association, an arm of the soda industry's national trade group, criticized the
city's proposal on Wednesday. The industry has clashed repeatedly with the
city's health department, saying it has unfairly singled out soda; industry
groups have bought subway advertisements promoting their cause.
"The New York City health department's
unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the
top,” the industry spokesman, Stefan Friedman, said. "It's 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.”
Mr. Bloomberg's 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 board's chairman is the city's health
commissioner, who joined the mayor in supporting the measure on Wednesday.
Mr. 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
restaurants and parks, a prohibition against artificial
restaurant food and a requirement for health inspection grades to be posted in
The measures have led to occasional derision
of the mayor as Nanny Bloomberg, by those who view the restrictions as
infringements on personal freedom. But many of the measures adopted in New York
have become models for other cities, including restrictions on smoking and
trans fats, as well as the use of graphic advertising to combat smoking and
soda consumption, and the demand that chain restaurants post calorie contents
next to prices.
In recent years, soda has emerged as a
battleground in efforts to counter obesity. Across the nation, some school
districts have banned the sale of soda in schools, and some cities have banned
the sale of soda in public buildings.
In New York City, where
more than half
of adults are obese or overweight, Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner,
blames sweetened 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. Dr. Farley said the city had seen higher
obesity rates in neighborhoods where soda consumption was more common.
The ban would not apply to drinks with fewer
8-ounce serving, like zero-calorie Vitamin Waters and unsweetened iced teas, as
well as diet sodas.
Restaurants, delis, movie theater and
ballpark concessions would be affected, because they are regulated by the
health department. Carts on sidewalks and in Central Park would also be
included, but not vending machines or newsstands that serve only a smattering
of fresh food items.
At fast-food chains, where sodas are often
dispersed at self-serve fountains, restaurants would be required to hand out
cup sizes of 16 ounces or less, regardless of whether a customer opts for a
diet drink. But free refills — and additional drink purchases — would be
Corner stores and bodegas would be affected
if they are defined by the city as "food service establishments.” Those stores
can most easily be identified by the health department letter grades they are
required to display in their windows.
The mayor, who said he occasionally drank a
diet soda "on a hot day,” contested the idea that the plan would limit
consumers' choices, saying the option to buy more soda would always be
"Your argument, I guess, could be that it's a
little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the
movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic
tone. "I don't think you can make the case that we're taking things away.”
He also said he foresaw no adverse effect on
local businesses, and he suggested that restaurants could simply charge more
for smaller drinks if their sales were to drop.
The Bloomberg administration had made
previous, unsuccessful efforts 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, but the idea was
rejected by federal regulators.
With the new proposal, City Hall is now
trying to see how much it can accomplish without requiring outside approval.
Mayoral aides say they are confident that they have the legal authority to
restrict soda sales, based on the city's jurisdiction over local eating
establishments, the same oversight that allows for the health department's
letter-grade cleanliness rating system for restaurants.
In interviews at the AMC Loews Village, in
the East Village in Manhattan, some filmgoers said restricting large soda sales
made sense to them.
"I think it's a good idea,” said Sara
Gochenauer, 21, a personal assistant from the Upper West Side. Soda, she said,
"rots your teeth.”
But others said consumers should be free to
"If people want to drink 24 ounces, it's
their decision,” said Zara Atal, 20, a college student from the Upper East
Lawrence Goins, 50, a postal worker who lives
in Newark, took a more pragmatic approach.
"Some of those movies are three, three and a
half hours long,” Mr. Goins said. "You got to quench your thirst.”
Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.