On September 13, the New York City Health Department became the first in the nation to ban the sale of sugared beverages larger than 16 oz. at restaurants, mobile food carts, sports arenas and movie theaters. The ban includes sodas and sweetened tea. The law is aimed at cutting obesity rates in the U.S., where at least two-thirds of American adults are considered overweight. While the ban is widely supported by health professionals, it’s not popular with food retailers or many city residents.
The ruling, which takes effect in March 2013, will prevent restaurants and cafeterias from selling sugared beverages in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces—about the size of a typical small soda. Supermarkets and convenience stores—including 7-Eleven, which sells the jumbo-sized Big Gulp—are not included in the law. And the ban doesn’t apply to fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, diet sodas or dairy-based drinks like milkshakes.
Health in the Big Apple
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the ban on large drinks. More than half of New York City adults and nearly 40 percent of the city’s public elementary and middle school students are considered overweight. "We are dealing with a crisis ... we need to act on this," said Board of Health member Deepthiman Gowda, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, the Associated Press reported. Bloomberg has noted that the ban doesn’t prevent people from buying several small sodas at a time if they wish, but health officials hope that the inconvenience will eventually get people to cut down on their use of sugared drinks.
New York City’s Board of Health members say that banning mega-sized drinks is an important step toward helping consumers not only to drink fewer calories, but may also encourage people to make other healthy changes to their diet. The board reviewed data showing that sugared drinks make up 43 percent of the added sugar in the average American diet.
Critics of the Ban
Some health officials, as well as the restaurant and beverage industry, are critical of the ban. They ask, why single out sugared sodas, when there are many reasons why people are overweight? And if sugared beverages are being targeted, why not take stronger measures against other sources of sugar, such as candy and other sweets?
Many restaurant owners, fast-food chains and makers of sodas, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonald’s, are also upset because they say the ban could hurt certain businesses while rewarding others. The groups plan to continue to challenge the ruling, including taking their concerns to court. “We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink,” Liz Berman, the chairperson of the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition, said in a statement.
What do you think? Should the government ban large sugary drinks to help consumers make healthier choices? Or should people be allowed make their own choices about beverage size? Vote in the TFK poll below!