New York City cracked down on the sale of super- sized sodas and other sugary drinks Thursday in what was celebrated by some as a groundbreaking attempt to curb obesity but condemned by others as a blatant intrusion into people’s lives.
Public health experts around the nation — and the restaurant and soft-drink industry — will be watching closely to see how it goes over among New Yorkers, a famously disputatious bunch. Barring any court action, the measure will take effect in March.
The regulations, approved easily by the city Board of Health, apply to any establishment with a food- service license, including fast-food places, delis, movie and Broadway theaters, the concession stands at Yankee Stadium and the pizzerias of Little Italy. They will be barred from serving sugary beverages in cups or bottles larger than 16 ounces.
No other U.S. city has gone so far as to restrict portion sizes at restaurants to fight weight gain.
“We cannot continue to have our kids come down with diabetes at age 6,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The mayor rejected suggestions that the rule constitutes an assault on personal liberty. “Nobody is banning anything,” he said, noting that restaurant customers can still buy as much soda as they want, as long as they are willing to 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 Prohibition. A New York Times poll last month showed that 6 in 10 New Yorkers opposed the restrictions.
The restrictions do not apply to supermarkets or most convenience stores, because such establishments are not subject to Board of Health regulation.