NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks takes effect on Tuesday, limiting stores and restaurants from selling high-calorie beverages larger than 16 ounces.
Some restaurants are ordering smaller glasses. Dunkin’ Donuts shops are telling customers they’ll have to sweeten and flavor their own coffee. Coca-Cola has printed posters explaining the new rules, and a bowling lounge is squeezing carrot and beet juice as a potential substitute for pitchers of soda at family parties – all in preparation for the nation’s first limit on the size of sugar-laden beverages.
Some New York City businesses are holding off, hoping a court challenge nixes or at least delays the restriction. But many are getting ready for tasks including reprinting menus and changing movie theaters’ supersized soda-and-popcorn deals.
Starbucks announced it plans to continue offering its 20 ounce venti-sized drinks in New York City because of the milk content in its drinks. The coffee giant also noted that customers add their own sugar.
“That’s ridiculous,” Mayor Bloomberg said on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.” “Starbucks knows how to market things, knows how to package things. They can change instantly when it’s in their interest to do so.”
Bloomberg said it is in the country’s interest to do something about empty calories and high sugar intake, which can lead to a host of health problems.
“This year for the first time in the history of the world more people will die from too much food than from too little food,” the mayor told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer. “We’ve just got to do something.”
The mayor noted those craving larger sweet drinks can opt to purchase two 16-ounce bottles of soda.
“It’s totally your choice, we’re not banning anything. It’s called portion control,” said Bloomberg on “Face The Nation.”
This weekend, some local pizzerias were preparing by throwing away the problem drinks, while bowling alleys brainstormed other ways to fill soda pitchers.
And at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, customers still will be able to order margaritas by the pitcher, cocktails in jumbo Mason jars and heaping plates of ribs. But they’ll no longer get 24-ounce tumblers of soda, since the new rule bars selling non-diet cola in cups, bottles or pitchers bigger than 16 ounces.
“Everything we do is big, so serving it in a quaint little 16-ounce soda cups is going to look kind of odd,” owner Josh Lebowitz said. Nonetheless, he’s ordered 1,000 of them for the North Carolina-themed restaurant’s five Manhattan locations, rather than take on a fight that carries the threat of $200 fines.
“As long as they keep allowing us to serve beer in glasses larger than 16 ounces, we’ll be OK,” Lebowitz reasoned.
Beer drinkers can breathe easy: The restriction doesn’t apply to alcoholic beverages, among other exemptions, for various reasons. But it does cover such beverages as energy drinks and sweetened fruit smoothies.
Critics say the regulation won’t make a meaningful difference in diets but will unfairly hurt some businesses while sparing others. A customer who can’t get a 20-ounce Coke at a sandwich shop could still buy a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven, for instance, since many convenience stores and supermarkets are beyond the city’s regulatory reach.
New Yorkers are divided on the restriction. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found 51 percent opposed it, while 46 percent approved.
“I don’t know if the state should be our surrogate parent,” Peter Sarfaty, 71, said as he drank a diet cola with lunch in Manhattan this week. “You get the information out there, but to tell people what they can or can’t do? As if it’s going to stop them.”
A quick look at the calories listed for a large soda and nachos combo at an Upper West Side movie theater does raise some cause for concern. Altogether, the combo amounts to up to 2,410 calories.
But that didn’t make moviegoers happy about the ban.
“It’s inappropriate,” said Laura Bielecki. “People have a choice to pick which size of soda they want to purchase.”
“I think it’s a little ridiculous, honestly, even though we don’t drink soda,” added Diana Leddy. “They’ll just buy two.”
“Everyone should have their own choice of what they want to do,” said Eric Santiago. “It’s your body do what you want with it.”
But Cathy Raines disagreed, saying “It’s unnecessary for people to drink such humongous sodas and they do it because establishments make it easy to do it.”
The anticipated ban has people thinking substitutions – like, for example, you could drink 23 ounces of carbonated water that tastes like soda.
“Yeah. I’m a fan. It works,” said moviegoer Ezra Dreiblatt. “Seltzer, sure it’s got that kick. Definitely.”
But that solution does not satisfy business owners.
Business organizations ranging from the massive American Beverage Association to a local Korean-American grocers’ group have asked a judge to stop the size limit from taking effect until he decides on their bid to block it altogether. He hasn’t ruled on either request.
Many businesses aren’t taking chances in the meantime.
Dominic Fazio, the manager of a Penn Station pizzeria, has stopped ordering 32-ounce and 24-ounce cups, though he calls the regulation “ridiculous.”
“But I guess the law is the law, right?” said Fazio, who put up an explanatory sign Coca-Cola Co. provided. The Atlanta-based soda giant said in a statement that helping small businesses prepare was “the responsible thing to do.”
Dunkin’ Donuts shops have set out colorful fliers explaining the complex rules surrounding coffee.
Lots of lattes are exempt because they’re more than half milk. And it’s OK for customers to load their large and extra-large coffees with all the sugar or sweet flavoring they want. But the chain will no longer do it for them, for fear of running over the limit of roughly three calories per ounce.
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