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Bloomberg: NYC Big Drink Ban ‘Will Help Save Lives’

Board Of Health Approved The Ban Thursday; Rules Go Into Effect Next March
Pepsi fountain drinks (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images News)

Pepsi fountain drinks (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images News)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The city’s Board of Health has approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban super-sized sugary drinks.

The plan was approved in a vote Thursday with eight in favor and one abstention.

“This is the single biggest step any city, I think, has ever taken to curb obesity, but certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the vote. “We believe that it will help save lives.”

Dr. Sixto R. Caro, who practices internal medicine in Brooklyn and Manhattan, was the one board member who abstained from voting.

“I am still skeptical,” Caro said. “This is not comprehensive enough.”

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

The new regulation puts a 16-ounce limit on sugary drinks sold at city restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts and applies to both bottled and fountain drinks.

It does not include grocery or convenience stores that don’t serve prepared food and would not apply to diet soda, other calorie-free drinks or anything that has at least 50 percent milk or milk substitute.

“This has nothing to do with banning your ability to buy as many sugary drinks as you want, simply the size of the cup that can be used, it cannot be greater than 16 ounces under this regulation,” Bloomberg explained.

EXTRA: See The Full Plan

The mayor has said the ban is a way to fight obesity in New York City. He said health-related problems stemming from obesity cost the city about $4 billion a year.

Following Thursday’s vote, President and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center Dr. Steven Safyer said the Board of the Health “did the right thing for New York” by approving the ban.

“For the past several years, I’ve seen the number of children and adults struggling with obesity skyrocket, putting them at early risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” Safyer said in a statement. “Sugary beverages play a major role in this cycle and are so heavily marketed to children, they jeopardize the next generation of New Yorkers. This policy is a great step in the battle to turn this health crisis around.”

Kenneth Davis, President and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, called the ban “a major step in the right direction.”

“Obesity contributes to a number of other serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, 20 percent of the patients hospitalized at Mount Sinai are diabetic, more than double the national percentage,” Davis said in a statement.

But members of the restaurant and beverage industries who oppose the ban have called it misguided. They said the city is overstepping its bounds and infringing on personal freedom.

“Is it French fries next? Is it bagels that are too big? Hamburgers that are too big? Pizza with too much cheese,” said Eliot Hoff, spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices.

A series of public hearings were held about the proposal prior to Thursday’s vote. The Health Department received 36,000 oral and written comments about the proposal. The board said 32,000 of them were in support of the measure.

Those who want to derail the ban have many avenues of attack. They can get an injunction, have it declared unconstitutional, say it’s a violation of interstate commerce or get a ruling which says regulating the size of a container is over reaching, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“We are committed to doing whatever we can to stop this from going into effect,” Hoff told CBS 2’s Kramer.

According to New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, more than 250,000 people have signed petitions opposing the plan.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports

“The fix was in from the beginning and the mayor’s hand-picked board followed their orders by passing this discriminatory ban; but it has not passed with the support of New Yorkers,” Liz Berman, president of Continental Food & Beverage, Inc., and chairwoman of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, said in a statement. “It’s sad that the board wants to limit our choices. We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink.”

Some small business owners have also criticized the plan.

“This misguided ban will only impact the health of the City’s struggling small businesses, not New Yorkers,” Robert Sunshine, executive director of the National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, said in a statement. “…This ban will only serve to further reduce lines at theaters, not the waistlines of our patrons.”

“Proposals like the soda ban discourage new business and hurt our reputation as the dining capital of the world,” said Andrew Moesel, spokesperson for the New York State Restaurant Association. “Reducing obesity is an important goal, but we want to partner with government to come up with effective ways to confront the problem. What we don’t need is more burdensome regulation making it harder for businesses to function and skewing the competitive landscape.”

Many New Yorkers seem to agree.

“There’s a thousand other things he needs to be working on instead of working on sodas,” said Queens resident Ernest Sheppard.

“Last time I checked, it’s a free country,” said Donnie Keller from Long Island City.

“If I have the money to buy it and if it’s what I choose to drink, it’s my body, it’s my choice,” said Joe from Brooklyn.

“It’s not consistent. You can go down the street to 7-11 and they can do what they want,” said Lorrain Bridges of Rosedale, Queens.

“I don’t think it’s his business who wants to drink what soda,” Jean Marie of Middle Village, Queens told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.

According to Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s 100 health inspectors will enforce the law.

“If they’re out of compliance we will cite them for violation and fine them,” Dr. Farley said.

The fines are $200 a pop, which doesn’t please some of the affected businesses like Jahanara Mintu’s Dunkin Donuts, where only the small drinks are 16 ounces.

“Make you upset because people doesn’t like the small one; they like the medium and large. They’re going to stop buying,” Mintu said.

The Barclays Center, which opens next week, is voluntarily adopting the new regulations six months before the rules officially go into effect on March 12, 2013.

New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said it is considering a lawsuit against the city and is exploring other options to challenge the ban.

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