NEW YORK (AP) - Want to super-size that soda? Sorry, but in New York City you could be out of luck.
In his latest effort to fight obesity in this era of Big Gulps and triple bacon cheeseburgers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing an unprecedented ban on large servings of soda and other sugary drinks at restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters.
Drinks would be limited to 16 ounces, which is considered a small serving at many fast-food joints.
“The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing,” Bloomberg said Thursday on MSNBC. He added: “We’ve got to do something.”
It is the first time an American city has directly attempted to limit soda portion sizes, and the soft-drink industry and others bitterly accused the three-term mayor of creating a “nanny state” and robbing New Yorkers of the right to decide for themselves.
“The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes,” Coca-Cola Co. said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase.”
The ban is expected to win approval from the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health and take effect as soon as March. City officials said they believe it will ultimately prove popular and push governments around the U.S. to adopt similar rules.
The ban would apply only to sweetened drinks over 16 ounces that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. (A 12-ounce can of Coke has about 140 calories. Plastic bottles of Coke and other soft drinks often contain 20 ounces.)
It wouldn’t affect diet soda, any drink that’s at least 70 percent juice, or one that is at least half milk or milk substitute. Nor would it apply to drinks sold in many supermarkets or convenience stores. Businesses would face fines of $200 per failed inspection.
City officials said some calorie-heavy drinks such as Starbucks Frappuccinos would probably be exempted because of their dairy content, while Slurpees and Big Gulp drinks at 7-Eleven wouldn’t be affected because the convenience stores are regulated as groceries.
Bloomberg said people who want to guzzle soda would still be free to order more than one drink. But he said restricting servings to 16 ounces each could help curb consumption.
“You tend to eat all of the food in the container. If it’s bigger, you eat more. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less,” the mayor said.
In announcing the proposal, health officials cited research linking sugary drinks to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. At the same time, City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city has no intention of reducing portion sizes of solid foods.
“Sugar drinks are not the entire obesity epidemic, but they are uniquely, strongly associated with this rise in obesity over the last 30 years,” Farley said. “There’s something about sugar water, as a product, which leads to long-term weight gain.”
The commissioner estimated that obesity-related illnesses in New York City cost $4 billion a year.