City Bans Big, Sugary Drinks at Eateries, Theaters

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New York City's health board has passed a rule banning super-sized, sugary drinks at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries.

The regulation passed by the Board of Health on Thursday puts a 16-ounce size limit on cups and bottles of non-diet soda, sweetened teas and other calorie-packed beverages.

Opponents have decried the large, sugary drinks ban as an improper insertion of government into the free market and individual choice.

One board member, Dr. Sixto R. Caro, abstained from voting. The other eight board members voted yes.

"I am still skeptical. This is not comprehensive enough," said Caro, a doctor of internal medicine who practices in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Vick Nair, manager of Lucky's Pizza in Long Island City, said he only sells relatively small bottles of drinks so the 16-ounce cap won't affect his business. "My customers don't want big drinks with their pizza, and if they do, they get two small ones," he said. "I think it's good and can help with obesity and make people stop and think a little."

Pepsi driver and deliveryman Sean Jones, however, doesn’t think smaller bottles will lighten his load. "I don't think it will affect anything. People are going to drink what they want to drink," he said. But he admits the move might motivate people to drink less, to stop at 16 ounces instead of doubling down and getting 32, "but it'll all depend on price."

The beverage industry has spent millions of dollars in advertising to defeat the proposal, and several politicians have joined industry efforts. The business-backed group New Yorkers for Beverage Choices claims 250,000 people have joined its campaign.

Mayor Bloomberg and his supporters have noted that for many years 16 ounces constituted a large portion — the size Coca-Cola introduced in the 1950s to serve three people. They argue the gradual increase in soda size is one of the many factors contributing to Americans’ growing caloric intake and obesity rates.

Diet beverages and unsweetened tea and coffee would be exempt from the size cap — but at places where with free refills, no one would get a cup larger than the legal limit for high-calorie drinks.

Also exempt from the drink size cap would be milkshakes and juice drinks. Health officials say those at least have some nutritional value, even as they acknowledge such drinks also spike insulin and thicken waistbands.

Ironically, the Big Gulp — the icon of massive beverages — would be exempt from the proposed size limits because the city has no jurisdiction over 7-Eleven and other convenience stores. They fall under state regulations.

The cap will not go into effect until March 2013.

With the Associated Press