Goodbye, Big Gulps. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling for a ban on large-sized sugary beverages from most dining establishments. The new measure would prohibit New York City delis, movie theaters, sidewalk food carts, stadiums and restaurants from selling cups or bottles containing more than 16 fluid ounces of sweetened drinks, the New York Times reports. The ban does not include diet sodas, fruit juices, alcohol, or dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, but applies to energy drinks and pre-sweetened iced tea. Drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving, like zero-calorie Vitamin Water, are also an exception.
Bloomberg’s proposal is the first of its kind in the U.S., but not the first aggressive stance he’s taken on obesity. The mayor has already cracked-down on trans fats, banned smoking in restaurants and public parks, forced restaurants to display health department letter grades in the windows of food establishments and list calorie counts next to menu items.
Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, told the Times that the mayor is unfairly singling out soft drinks. “The New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top,” Friedman said. “These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.”
But the chairman of the Board of Health, Dr. Thomas Farley, who is also the city’s health commissioner, endorsed Bloomberg’s measure. Farley said sweetened drinks are a major factor in the city’s increased obesity rate. Approximately 58 percent of New York’s adult residents are obese and, according to the city, about a third of adults consume one or more sugary drinks per day.
“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” the mayor said. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”