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Public Hearing Held On Mayor's Soda Ban Proposal

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New Yorkers are sounding off Tuesday on the mayor’s plan to restrict the sale of large sugary drinks in restaurants, movie theaters, sports stadiums and bodegas regulated by the New York City Health Department. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Are large sugary drinks a basic right of New Yorkers or the culprit behind the obesity epidemic?

That question is at the center of the fight over Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. The policy would apply to restaurants, movie theaters, sports stadiums and bodegas regulated by the city Health Department.

"I respectfully submit that the mayor's proposal is inappropriate, overreaching and antithetical to the very principals and values of freedom and liberty," said civil rights attorney Norman Siegel.

At a public hearing on the plan, several elected officials and industry leaders spoke out against it. They argue it is unfair, will hurt business and will take away the rights of New Yorkers to chose for themselves. They also say it will not work.

"I'm not overweight because of Big Gulp sodas," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "I am overweight because I eat too much pasta, pastrami sandwiches, pizza, bagels and cream cheese and lox, red velvet cake, cheesecake."

City officials are taking aim at sugary beverages to fight obesity. They want New Yorkers to think before they drink. The city's health commissioner says he anticipates the uproar over the plan to eventually die down.

"I have not heard a single complaint about the ban on trans fats in New York City and I fully expect the same will happen with this rule when it is ultimately put into place," he said.

Kelly Brownell, a health expert with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, supports the ban. He said the level of resistance from the beverage industry is a sign that this is good public health policy. He added that the industry is relying on many of the same tactics used by big tobacco.

"If you hold up the playbook or the script of the tobacco industry and next to it, you hold up the script from the sugared beverage industry, it looks remarkably similar," he said.

A non-profit executive who advocates for low-income New Yorkers said he is offended by the industry's argument that the proposal is an assault on freedom of choice. He says it is all about the bottom line.

Members of the Board of Health are appointed by the mayor. They are widely expected to approve the proposal when they vote on it in September. The new regulations would take effect next March.

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