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NEW YORK -- New York City's third-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed an unprecedented ban on the sale of large-sized servings of soda and other sugary drinks in city restaurants, delis and movie theaters. The ban, which could take effect as soon as next March, would not extend to drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores that don't primarily sell foods meant to be eaten right away. Businesses that violate the rules would face fines of $200 per failed inspection.
The proposal is believed to be the first time an American city has so directly attempted to limit sugary-drink portion sizes, according to the
"The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing," Bloomberg said Thursday on MSNBC. "We've got to do something."
As expected, the proposal quickly sparked accusations that the Bloomberg administration, which has pushed some of the nation's most restrictive anti-smoking laws, forced restaurants to post calorie counts on menus and outlawed trans-fats in restaurant food, is attempting to legislate behavior that is best left to individual choice.
"New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase," Coca-Cola Co. said in a statement. "We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate."
The proposal, which would impose a 16-oz. limit on sugary drinks sold at restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts, requires the approval of the city's Board of Health -- considered likely because its members are all appointed by Bloomberg, according to the AP report. It would apply to both bottled drinks and fountain sodas.
Bloomberg said people who want to consume 32 ounces would still be free to order two 16-oz. drinks. But he said restricting sodas to 16 ounces could help curb consumption.
Not all drinks would be banned, just sweetened drinks that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It also would not affect diet soda or any drinks that are at least half milk or milk substitute.
Some calorie-heavy beverages such as Starbucks Frappucinos, for example, would probably be exempted because of their dairy content, while the Slurpees at 7-Eleven wouldn't be affected because the stores are regulated as groceries.
Bloomberg cited research linking sugary drinks to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. However, his efforts have drawn criticism from those who accuse him of instituting a "nanny state." "There they go again," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, who called the latest proposal "zealous."
"The New York City Health Department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top," he told the AP. "The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates."
The mayor's proposal didn't escape the derision of Comedy Central "Daily Show" host, Jon Stewart, who observed that "Mayor Bloomberg's large soda ban would combine the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect."
See Stewart's commentary here.