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New York City Passes Strict, Innovative Ban Forbidding Sale Of Large, Sugary Drinks

Published: 10/31/12
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On September 13, the New York City Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed regulation nearly unanimously. The regulation bans the sale of any soda or other sugar-sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces throughout the city. It targets the sale of such drinks in fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King as well as workplace cafeterias and both movie and Broadway theaters. The regulation was approved by eight of the nine members of the Board of Health, enacting a landmark move against obesity. One board member, Dr. Sixto R. Caro of Brooklyn’s Medspan Associates, abstained from the final vote on the grounds that the proposal doesn’t go far enough to have the desired effect. And indeed, there is a major blind spot in the regulation – New Yorkers and visitors to the city will still be able to obtain supersized sodas at supermarkets and convenience stores, where the ban doesn’t apply. It’s also worth noting that the ban specifically only deals with sugary drinks, meaning there are no restrictions on the size of diet and sugar-free sodas.

While the continued availability of large sodas in supermarkets and convenience stores may seem to blunt the impact of the regulation, there’s still significant reason for optimism. By restricting the size of sodas served in restaurants, theaters, and workplaces, the bill effectively discourages overeating in social and professional situations. These group settings represent an opportunity to change the general culture of soda-drinking – after a year or two of living with this regulation, New Yorkers may indeed be much less inclined to buy 20-oz. sodas from the convenience store.

If successful, this initiative could lead to similar regulations nationwide, such as Mayor Bloomberg’s previous regulation that required fast food restaurants to prominently display calorie information on their menus. The law is a tentative, imperfect first step – and one that faces significant public opposition and is already being challenged by lawsuits, primarily from the soda industry and its surrogates – but it’s great to see New York being so willing to take such a bold stance in the ongoing fight against obesity. –AW

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