On Thursday, New York City as Americans knew it was changed forever: the New York City Health Board decided that restaurants, movie theaters, and street vendors could no longer sell most sweetened drinks larger than half a litre (16 ounces) to civilians. This topic was brought in by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has devoted much of his time and energy into regulating public health. (Bloomberg’s 2003 cause, banning smoking in restaurants and bars, was highly successful and resulted in many states passing similar laws. Last year, it became illegal to smoke at beaches and public parks as well.)
Bloomberg says that this ban “will help save lives.” This new law – the first of its kind – will help curb obesity, an epidemic that kills about 5,000 people in New York City annually, according to the NYCHB. Unless the new law gets overridden in court, it will come into effect on March 12th.
Not everyone is happy with the new law, however. The Center For Consumer Freedom, an organization founded in 2003 by the tobacco industry to protest Bloomberg’s ban on smoking in restaurants, is one of the loudest dissenting voices. A full-page ad in The New York Times, placed by the CFCF, depicts a photoshopped Bloomberg dressed in drag, rising above the New York City skyline. “New Yorkers need a Mayor [sic], not a Nanny [sic]”, reads the caption.
And while others support Bloomberg’s fight to prevent obesity, they are not fans of his approach. Sixto Caro, the lone NYCHB member who abstained from voting, wished for a more holistic approach than just banning sodas. While Bloomberg championed for fast-food restaurants to list calories alongside their offerings on the menu, he has not formulated further measures to prevent obesity via awareness of health.
Convenience stores would be exempt from the ban, which means to say 7-Eleven stores in New York City would be allowed to continue selling their Big Gulps (the largest size – the Double Gulp – holds 50 ounces of soda). Diet sodas, fruit juices, milk beverages and alcoholic drinks will also bypass the ban. There is also the matter, though, of restaurant patrons still being allowed to drink more than 16 ounces of soda at any given meal; has Bloomberg thought about the free refills that fast-food patrons could help themselves to?