New Yorkers and elected officials alike are weighing in on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban sweetened drinks larger than 16 fluid ounces from nearly all city restaurants, movie theaters and food carts, but not grocery stores and convenience stores. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
If Mayor Bloomberg gets his way, and it looks like he will, large sodas and other sugary drinks will be a thing of the past, at least at restaurants, movie theaters, cafes, and stadiums across the five boroughs.
Under the mayor's proposed plan, drinks at these locations would not be over 16 ounces. If businesses break the rule, they'll be hit with a $200 fine.
Thomas Farley, the city's health commissioner, said the measure is a new way to fight obesity. He estimates that over 60 percent of New Yorkers are overweight.
"There is something about just sugar water as a product that leads to long-term weight gain," Farley said. "And that's been recognized not just by me but by health experts all over the country."
Mayor Bloomberg was missing from the Blue Room announcement. He spent the day talking up the plan with the national media. If enacted, it would be the first of its kind in the country.
The backlash from businesses was swift and strong. McDonald's said the ban is misguided. The New York City Beverage Association said the Department of Health has an unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks. Robert Bookman, an attorney for NYC Restaurants, predicted that a legal challenge is on its way.
"It is clearly outside the scope of the Department of Health's legal authority to pass something like this," Bookman said. "And I have no doubt that it will be found in violation of the commerce clause of the United States Constitution."
It looks like it will not just be the food and beverage industry that is fighting the proposed ban. Some members of the City Council say they have problems with the idea as well.
"It seems to be more on the punitive side of things," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "And I worry that although I understand the urge, in the end it won't have the positive result. Because the person who doesn't now understand why it's bad to simply drink 18 ounces of sugared soda is now going to get two 10-ounce sodas."
City officials say they do not need Council approval to enact the ban. The Board of Health needs to give it the go-ahead, which it is expected to do.
The ban, which if approved would be the first of its kind in the nation, would take effect in March 2013.
New Yorkers who spoke with NY1 had mixed thoughts on the proposed ban, with some saying it could be a useful intervention in the name of good health or an unwelcome intrusion.
"It's not a bad idea because sugar, too much sugar is no good for you," said one New Yorker.
"I would really think it was a great idea. I mean probably not for the business, not for the restaurants and all that stuff, but for me especially I think it's a good idea," said another New Yorker.
"I understand what he's doing, but you tell people they can't have their sugar is kind of insane, but I wish him the best and I hope it works out and somebody gives him a balloon or something and he chills out," added a third.