Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial proposal to ban sugary drinks larger than 16-ounces in city restaurants, movie theaters, and food carts is a step closer to becoming reality after the Board of Health agreed this morning to begin a public comment period on the controversial measure. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums is moving forward.
Tuesday’s vote by the Board of Health to put the proposal before public review means the city is one step closer toward adopting the measure.
But in an unusual move, city officials are asking members not to speak out on the issue.
“They have asked us specifically to sort of direct our comments toward the commissioner," said Dr. Michael Phillips, a member of the Board of Health. "I can't comment. You'll have to talk to the lawyer about that."
The request for board members to keep quiet, which is a first of its kind, shows the extent to which city officials are trying to keep tight control on the sugary drink story.
“The board members are acting, essentially, like jurists in a trial," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. "And so they shouldn't be giving access and communication to some people more than others.”
Members of the Board of Health are appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. They are widely expected to approve the mayor's plan.
In fact, some members think the restrictions should be broader.
“Milkshakes and milk coffee beverages have monstrous amounts of calories in them," said board member Dr. Joel Forman. "I'm not so sure what the rationale is not to include those.”
"When I first heard about the announcement, I was thinking about your typical movie theater with the 32-ounce sugary drink and 32 ounces of popcorn," said board member Bruce Vladeck. "And the popcorn isn't a whole lot better from a nutritional point of view than the soda is and may even be more calories."
While supporters of the ban say sugar consumption needs to be curbed, critics said it simply goes too far.
"Some of the board members seem to think this proposal didn't go far enough," said Andrew Moesel of the New York State Restaurant Association. "That's very alarming because the majority of New Yorkers that we've seen in several polls think that this is already over-regulation."
Meanwhile, the mix of opinions among New Yorkers continues to be split.
"We have to respect the law anyway, you know?" said one New Yorker. "Anyway, that's good for the people, for health, you know?"
"This is America, so basically if that's something that you want to do and you choose to buy a drink you should have the option to do so," said another. "Government shouldn't be able to tell you what you can and cannot drink."
According to a recent NY1/Marist poll, 53 percent of New Yorkers surveyed think the ban is a bad idea, while 42 percent support it.
Because the Board of Health is appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, the new rules are expected to pass and go into effect next spring.
Residents who want to weigh in on the city's sugary drinks proposal can leave a comment on the city's website at www.nyc.gov/html/nycrules. A public hearing will take place on July 24.
The Board of Health is expected to vote on the proposal in September.