Enacting a first-of-its-kind law, the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of sugary drinks sold in containers larger than 16 ounces.

The controversial proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg is intended to combat rising obesity rates and covers the city’s restaurants, street carts, theaters, delis, and sporting venues.

The law defines covered drinks as beverages “sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces” and applies to drinks sold in containers larger than 16 ounces. Exempt from the ban are drinks sold in grocery and convenience stores. Drinks that contain at least 51 percent milk as well as alcohol, fruit, and juice drinks are not covered by the law.

The nine-person Board of Health voted almost unanimously in favor of the proposal, with eight “yes” votes and one abstention. The law will take effect March 12, 2013. It will be enforced by the city’s restaurant inspection team, with the possibility of a $200 fine per violation.

Despite its passage, however, the law faces continued criticism and a potential legal challenge.

“What we need in New York are sensible solutions to the obesity issue that focus on a comprehensive approach to tackle an extremely complex problem,” Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for a beverage industry-sponsored group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, told CNN.com. “New Yorkers are smart enough to decide for themselves what to eat and drink.” The group said it has gathered more than 250,000 signatures on petitions that oppose the soda ban and is considering various options to challenge the law.

Why it matters: Mayor Bloomberg’s office has been a trendsetter in health-related legislation. Among other things, it has mandated that chain restaurants post calorie information on their menus and has instituted a ban on artificial trans fats in restaurant food. The passage of the soda ban could lead other jurisdictions to enact similar laws.