NYC bans big sugary drinks at eateries, theaters

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's Board of Health opened up a new, experimental front in the war on obesity Thursday, passing a rule banning sales of big sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries.

The regulation, which was proposed in the spring by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by panel of health experts after several months of review, puts a 16-ounce size limit on cups and bottles of non-diet soda, sweetened teas, and other calorie-packed beverages.

The ban will apply in fast-food joints, movie houses and Broadway theaters, workplace cafeterias, and most other places selling prepared food.

It doesn't cover beverages sold in supermarkets or most convenience stores.

The restaurant and beverage industries have assailed the plan as misguided. They say the city's health experts are exaggerating the role sugary beverages have played in making Americans fat.

One board member, Dr. Sixto R. Caro, abstained from voting. The other eight board members voted yes.

"I am still skeptical. . This is not comprehensive enough," said Caro, a doctor of internal medicine who practices in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Some New Yorkers have also ridiculed the rule as a gross government intrusion and tens of thousands signed a petition, circulated by the industry, voicing their opposition.

The unprecedented regulation would follow other ambitious health moves on Bloomberg's watch.

Some have proven to be national pacesetters, such as making chain restaurants post calorie counts prominently on their menus; McDonald's announced Wednesday that it would start displaying the information nationwide next week, before a federal requirement that could force all major chains to do so next year.

New York City also has barred artificial trans fats from restaurant food and taken aggressive steps to discourage smoking. Starting this month, dozens of city hospitals are asking mothers of newborns to listen to talks about why they should breast-feed instead of using formula.

Bloomberg and other advocates for the soda plan — who include a roster of doctors and such food figures as chef Jamie Oliver — see it as another pioneering step for public health.

After Thursday's vote, Bloomberg's official Twitter feed tweeted: "NYC's new sugary drink policy is the single biggest step any gov't has taken to curb (hash)obesity. It will help save lives."

They say the proposal strikes at a leading cause of obesity simply by giving people a built-in reason to stop at 16 ounces: 200 calories, if it's a regular Coke, compared to 240 in a 20-ounce size. For someone who drinks a soda a day, the difference amounts to 14,600 calories a year, or the equivalent of 70 Hershey bars, enough to add about four pounds of fat to a person's body.

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