Thousand of signed petitions and public outcry could not stop the Board of Health from approving Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban large sugary beverages in the city.
Under the ban — which applies to restaurants, food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas — establishments will be unable to sell sugary drinks over 16 ounces. Diet sodas, drinks with more than 50 percent milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice avoid the restriction.
“The fix was in from the beginning, and the mayor’s handpicked board followed their orders by passing this discriminatory ban; but it has not passed with the support of New Yorkers,” said Liz Berman, chair of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group financed by the soda industry. “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.”
The board — which voted 8-0 on the measure with one abstention — consists of 11 members appointed by Bloomberg.
New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said they will explore all avenues to overturn this ruling, including taking it to court.
Bloomberg introduced the embargo in May, citing increasing obesity in the city — the second leading cause of death.
“This is the biggest step a city has taken to curb obesity,” said Bloomberg. “Simply by proposing limits on sugary drinks, New York City pushed the issue of obesity — and the impact of sugary beverages — onto the national stage.”
Polls released by the New York Times and Quinnipiac in August found a majority of New Yorkers were sour on the sugary beverage ban.
“I think it’s stupid,” said Kimberly Cicciariello, 23, of Flushing. “People need to control their own portion sizes. It’s as stupid a person blaming McDonald’s for making them fat.”
In a release, New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said the sweetened beverage prohibition shows “no regard for public opinion.” The organization collected more than 285,000 signatures in opposition to the ban.
Bloomberg pointed to the many who were also against the trans fat and smoking ban in restaurants at the time they were introduced.
Not all New Yorkers — including many anti-obesity organizations and residents — are opposed to the ban.
“I support it. I think obesity’s a real problem, particularly among low-income folks. I think they drink so much of it because it’s so cheap and available. Then the city has to pay for their health care anyway,” said Kevin Dugan, 40, of Bayside.
Soda drinkers can still circumvent the ban by ordering multiple drinks.
Restaurants will have six months to implement the ban after which they face $200 fines.
— Additional reporting by Mitchell Kirk