To battle New York City’s rising obesity epidemic, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 fluid ounces. Under the proposed ban, which was formally submitted to the New York City Board of Health in June, these drinks would no longer be sold in self-service cups or containers at restaurants, fast-food chains, delis, food trucks, movie theatres or sports arenas.
If the Board approves the ban with a vote on Sept. 13, the law would go into effect six months thereafter.
Despite the mayor’s intent of tackling the rising obesity rate, Elliot Hoff, a spokesman of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, described the proposed ban as “completely arbitrary.”
“[The ban] won’t work,” he said. “There’s no evidence that banning drinks over 16 ounces will do anything to decrease obesity rate. We believe that New Yorkers and everyone should have the choice of what and how much they eat and drink.”
According to professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health Marion Nestle, a 16-ounce soda was at one time an appropriate serving for two or three people and contains roughly 10 percent of a person’s daily calorie needs.
“Sodas have calories and no other nutrients,” Nestle said. “People who habitually consume sugary drinks are more likely to be overweight.”
But Samantha Levine, spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, said the ban does not obstruct a person’s freedom of choice.
“Under this proposal, a person can choose to drink or buy as much of a beverage as they choose,” Levine said. “The proposal simply limits the maximum size of sugary drink containers.”
The restaurant industry is also concerned about the negative economic effects the ban may trigger, said Sue Hensley, a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association — an association representing more than 380,000 restaurant businesses.
“It unfairly targets the restaurant industry,” Hensley said. “Convenience stores are not impacted at all. This creates an uneven playing field for businesses.”
The ban would not apply to alcoholic beverages, diet sodas, unsweetened coffees and teas, fruit or vegetable juices without added sugar or large beverages sold in grocery stores. It also would not limit businesses to offer free refills.
However, Emanuel Remilus, a College of Nursing alumnus and a medical assistant at SoHo Pediatrics, believes that although the ban is not enough to end the obesity epidemic, it is a step in the right direction.
“The ban brings the obesity issue to light,” he said. “And maybe this will reinvigorate people to talk about the topic more and educate more people, and overtime, I believe that we can see a change.”
A version of this story appeared in the Aug. 26 print edition. Kayana Jean-Philippe is a deputy city/state editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a previous version of this article, WSN inaccurately reported that Samantha Levine was a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Health. In fact, she is a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office. WSN regrets this error.
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