Mayor Bloomberg is proposing a sweeping ban on all sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces sold in restaurants, movie theaters, food carts and ballpark concession stands, NBC 4 New York has confirmed.
The citywide rule, if passed, would outlaw any sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces. It could take effect as soon as next March.
The New York Times first reported the effort late Wednesday. In an interview with the Times, Bloomberg said “obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible.'”
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he added. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
More than half of New York City adults are overweight or obese, according to the Health Department.
In a statement Wednesday night, the New York City Beverage Association said the city was wrongly targeting soft drinks as a driver of obesity rates and it was “time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity.”
Drinks that would not be included in the ban include diet sodas and any beverages with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving, like zero-calorie Vitamin Waters and unsweetened iced teas, along with fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes and alcoholic beverages.
Also, the ban would not extend to beverages sold in grocery stores, convenience stores, vending machines or newsstands that serve only small amounts of fresh food items.
The rule does not limit establishments from offering free refills or stop one person from buying more than one sugary drink in a smaller size.
Bloomberg’s proposal is likely to be passed by the Board of Health, whose members are all appointed by him.
It is set to be submitted to the board on June 12, and will then undergo a three-month comment period before the board votes. Restaurants and establishments would then get six months from that time before any violations would be issued. The proposal envisions a $200 fine for violations.
The city says no other authorization beyond the Board of Health is required; its calorie-posting rule and letter grade requirements for restaurants were established through the same process.
It’s not the first time the mayor has tried to limit consumption of sugary drinks by city residents: in 2010, he proposed that food stamps be prevented from being used for sugary drinks. He said at the time it would have done “more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything being proposed anywhere else in this country.”
His request was denied by the federal government.