New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a ban on the sale of large, sugary beverages in the city’s restaurants, street carts, theaters, delis and sporting venues.
The law would define sugary drinks as beverages “sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces” and would apply to drinks sold in containers larger than 16 ounces.
Drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores would not be affected, and neither would alcohol, fruit and juice drinks, and drinks that contain at least 51 percent milk.
The ban – the first of its kind – could take effect in March 2013, with a possible fine of $200 per violation if the city’s Board of Health approves it.
Retailers and beverage companies alike quickly pushed back against the proposal.
The American Beverage Association and the National Restaurant Association launched full-page newspaper ads decrying the ban as creating a “nanny state” and rejecting the idea that such drinks can help lead to obesity. Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the NRA, suggested that the drive behind the ban be put to use elsewhere. “Public health officials in New York should put all of their energies into public education about a balanced lifestyle with a proper mix of diet and exercise rather than attempting to regulate consumption of a completely legal product enjoyed universally,” he said in a statement.
“There is no silver bullet in America’s fight against obesity, and hyper-regulation such as this misplaces responsibility and creates a false sense of accomplishment,” DeFife added.
Why it matters: Despite the controversy and pushback from industry groups and consumers alike, the proposal has a strong chance of being approved. The chairman of the New York City Board of Health indicated his support for the ban and Mayor Bloomberg, who is leaving after three terms in office, may not be overly concerned about pleasing constituents. Prior health-related restrictions put in place by the Mayor – like bans on trans fats and smoking in restaurants – received similar reactions, only to become models for other cities across the country.