To no one's surprise, the New York City Board of Health approved on Thursday a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street cars and movie theaters. It was the first restriction of its kind and scale in the country.
It also surprised no one that Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the spiritual father and political force behind the ban, quickly hailed the enactment of his brainchild. "NYC's sugary drink policy is the single biggest step any gov't has taken to curb obesity," he stated. "It will help save lives." The Mayor's Office also released statements of support, along with the news that the new Barclays Center will comply.
The measure will take effect in six months unless the American soft-drink industry manages to get some judge to overturn it. Of course, there's always the possibility that popular sentiment could turn heavily against the ban and result in political pressure that would cause its reversal. But no one is betting on that.
"This is not the end," Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, an industry-financed group opposed to the ban, commented in a statement to the New York Times. "We are exploring legal options, and all other avenues available to us." The coalition's chairwoman, Liz Berman, also released a video statement reiterating that stance.
Some nutritionists and doctors agree with Bloomberg's assertion that the ban literally will help save lives by curbing "excessive" consumption of sugary beverages, which clearly are a major contributor to obesity in Gotham and elsewhere. But while Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other beverage companies have proudly noted their reduced-calorie offerings and non-soft-drink beverages, the biggest argument against the ban has been on the basis of restriction of freedoms — and the issue of the slippery slope.
And of course there's the assertion that the ban simply won't work and also that it is unfair, which was the tack chosen by the National Restaurant Association in its response today.
"There is no scientific support that this beverage ban's size and caloric limit will impact obesity rates," said Joy Dubost, director of nutrition and healthy living for the association. "It is also bewildering that the ban restricts restaurants from serving sweetened beverages in sizes larger than 16 ounces, but individuals can purchase any-sized beverages from a convenience or grocery stores."