New York's Mayor Declares War on Soda

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a city-wide ban on sodas and other sugary drinks that are bigger than 16 ounces. 

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a city-wide ban on sodas and other sugary drinks that are bigger than 16 ounces. The proposal would make it illegal for restaurants, delis, food carts, sports arenas, and movie theaters in New York City to sell sweetened drinks that exceed the size limit, or from even giving out cups bigger than 16 ounces if they offer self-serve beverages.

The proposed ban was met with a lot of ridicule online (see below) as it just sounds like another pointless  "nanny state" regulation from the mayor who banned smoking, trans fats, and forced calorie counting on fast food restaurants. (That last rule we actually like a lot.) Since the ban exempts "milk-based" drinks (like milkshakes or tall lattes), fruit juice (but not fruit-flavored drinks), alcoholic beverages, and diet sodas (which aren't too healthy either) it feels arbitrary and unlikely to do much to actually stop obesity.

People would still be able to buy large-size bottles in grocery stores and it also wouldn't ban free refills or multiple purchases, so it's mostly about making large sizes more inconvenient rather than actually stopping people from drinking them. In fact, the ban on bigger drinks could actually make the problem worse, as we suspect a lot people who can't buy larger sizes will simply buy two or more smaller sizes (for example; two 12-ounce cans, instead of one 20-ounce bottle) that would actually result in them drinking more soda than normal and spending more money.

Ironically, it also seems that 7-11's — which are rare in the city and usually looked down upon by residents — might be exempt, increasing the spread of the iconic and deadly Big Gulp.

There's also the matter of the restaurant economy where fountain sodas that cost pennies to produce deliver huge profit margins. Movie theaters would be hardest hit, as people don't like to get up for refills and concession stands are where they make most of their money.

The beverage industry will lobby hard to stop the ban, much as it did to stop a state tax increase on sodas last year and a similar plan to deny the use of food stamps to pay for sugary drinks. But the Bloomberg administration seems confident that it can implement this ban without needing outside approval, based on its role as the enforcer of food safety and restaurant regulations.

The news also comes on the same day the FDA denied the makers of high fructose corn syrup the right to rename their product "corn sugar." It seems the war on our sweet, sweet beverages is only just beginning.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.