New York City cracked down on the sale of super-sized sodas and other sugary drinks on Thursday in what was celebrated by some as a groundbreaking attempt to curb obesity, but condemned by others as an intrusion into people’s lives.
Public health experts around the US — and the restaurant and soft drink industry — will be watching closely to see how it goes over among New Yorkers. Barring any court action, the measure will take effect in March.
The regulations, approved easily by the city’s Board of Health, apply to any establishment with a food service license and will bar the serving of sugary beverages in cups or bottles larger than 470ml.
“We cannot continue to have our kids come down with diabetes at age 6,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The mayor rejected suggestions that the rule constitutes an assault on personal liberty, adding that restaurant customers can still buy as much soda as they want, as long as they carry it in multiple containers.
He said the inconvenience is well worth the potential public health benefit and likened the city’s actions to measures taken decades ago to phase out lead in household paint.
Others, though, likened the ban to the Prohibition of the 1920s. A New York Times poll last month showed that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed the restrictions.
“This is my life. I should be able to do what I want,” said Sebastian Lopez, a student from Queens.
Some health experts said it is not clear whether the ban will have any effect on obesity. However, they said it might help usher in a change in attitudes toward overeating.
However, pizza shop owner Vinnie Siena said banning large sodas will hurt his already low profits.
“I’m having a tough time as it is. They don’t want the little guy to survive, it seems,” he said.