The New York City Board of Health has approved NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial proposal to ban the sale of super-sized sugary sodas as part of a citywide initiative to stem childhood obesity.
Just minutes after the measure was approved on Sept. 13, 2012, Bloomberg tweeted the news: "NYC’s Board of Health has voted to approve new sugary drink policy. 6 months from today, our city will be an even healthier place."
The law, which is expected to go into effect in March 2013, will ban the sale of sugary sodas and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, movie theaters, street vendors and stadium concession stands.
Grocery and convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven, which sells the 32-oz. "Big Gulp" soda) would be exempt, and the ban does not apply to water, diet soda, coffee drinks, milk or milkshakes, fruit and vegetable juices or alcoholic beverages.
Bloomberg, 70, has come under fire from some groups (notably, soda companies) for enacting "fascist" legislation that limits people's personal freedoms, but has also garnered vocal support from the nation's largest weight-loss companies, such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.
In defending his position, Bloomberg pointed to scientific studies that showed that people consumed more when presented with larger portions. He noted that almost 60% of New York City adults and 40% of children are overweight or obese, and one in eight adult New Yorkers has diabetes.
“Obesity is one of America’s most deadly problems, and sugary beverages are a leading cause,” he said. “As the size of sugary drinks has grown, so have our waistlines – and so have diabetes and heart disease.
This isn't the first time Bloomberg has enacted health-conscious legislation. During the past few years, the self-made billionaire has banned smoking in New York City restaurants, parks and beaches; eliminated the use artery-clogging artificial trans fats at NYC restaurants, and forced fast-food joints to post calorie counts on their menus.
Meanwhile, soda companies say it's unfair to blame their sugar-laden products for the alarming nationwide obesity epidemic.
"It is incorrect and unjust to put the blame on any single ingredient, any single product, any single category of food," Muhtar Kent, the CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., told the Wall Street Journal. "Eight hundred of the products we've introduced in the last four or five years are calorie-free or low-calorie."
Similarly, the executive chef at McDonald's has slammed widespread criticism of fast-food joints (which is affected by the new regulations), insisting there's nothing unhealthy about its food.
"I don't see anything on the menu that's unhealthy," Thomas Coudreaut told the Akron Beacon Journal. "I'm sure I could eat a 2,000-calorie meal at Thomas Keller's French Laundry [restaurant]. "If we were to close our doors of all of the McDonald's tomorrow, the obesity problem would not go away."