New Yorkers will still be able to down a Big Gulp at the 7-Eleven, but not a gut-busting regular soda sold at sports arenas or movie theaters. City health officials voted Thursday to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces sold everywhere except grocery stores.
The New York City Board of Health voted Thursday in support of the ban on large, sugary drinks on Thursday, in a controversial move to reduce obesity.
The ban is an unprecedented 16-ounce limit on sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, delis and movie theaters.
By a vote of eight members in favor, with one abstaining, the mayoral-appointed city health board outlawed sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces nearly everywhere they are sold, except groceries and convenience stores. Violators of the ban, which does not include diet sodas, face a $200 fine.
Opponents, who cast the issue as an infringement on personal freedom and called Mayor Michael Bloomberg an overbearing nanny, vowed to continue their fight, possibly by going to court in the hopes of blocking or overturning the measure before it takes effect in March.
"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," Liz Berman, a business owner and chairwoman of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, said in a statement.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley heralded the measure's passage as a major step toward making New Yorkers healthier and said it was likely to be copied elsewhere in the nation - and even the world - as were the city's bans on trans fats and smoking.
"This is a historic step to address a major health problem of our time," Farley said at the meeting immediately after the vote.
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Farley recently said that if the law results in "shrinking only one sugary drink per person every two weeks from 20 ounces to 16 ounces, New Yorkers could collectively prevent 2.3 million pounds gained per year. This would slow the obesity epidemic and prevent much needless illness."
About one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10 percent of the nation's healthcare bill is tied to obesity-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The OECD projects more than two out of three people will be overweight or obese in some developed countries by 2020.
Doctors and nutrition experts said the regulation's success or failure may depend on more than just the modest number of calories it might slash from people's diets. It will hinge on whether the first-in-the-nation rule starts a conversation that changes attitudes toward overeating.
Since the mid-1970s, Americans have increased their daily intake by 200 to 300 calories while getting less exercise — a couch-potato lifestyle that has left the country with epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joins TODAY's Matt Lauer to talk about his controversial proposal to ban the sale of large sodas and sugary drinks in the city and why he thinks it's an important issue.