AoW: “Health Panel Approves Restriction” Name:_____________________
“on Sale of Large Sugary Drinks” Period: __ Date: ____________
Source: The New York Times 13 September 2012
Seeking to reduce runaway obesity rates, the New York City Board of Health on Thursday approved
a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters,
the first restriction of its kind in the country.
The measure, championed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is certain to intensify a growing
national debate about soft drinks and obesity, and it could spur other cities to follow suit, even as
many New Yorkers say they remain uneasy about the plan.
“This is the single biggest step any city, I think, has ever taken to curb obesity,” Mr. Bloomberg said
shortly after the vote. “It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take, and we
believe that it will help save lives.”
The measure, which bars the sale of many sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, is to
take effect on March 12, unless it is blocked by a judge. The vote by the Board of Health was the
only regulatory approval needed to make the ban binding in the city, but the American soft-drink
industry has campaigned strongly against the measure and vowed this week to fight it through other
means, possibly in the courts.
“This is not the end,” Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group
financed by the soft-drink industry, which opposes the restrictions, said in an e-mail moments after
“By imposing this ban, the board has shown no regard for public opinion or the consequences to
businesses in the city,” Mr. Hoff wrote, noting a recent poll that showed 60 percent of New Yorkers
believed the plan was a bad idea.
Mr. Bloomberg is known for introducing ambitious — and, some say, overreaching — public health
policies, like bans on smoking in bars and city parks and the posting of calorie counts on menus in
chain restaurants; they often catch on around the country.
Curbing obesity has been the latest goal of the mayor, who has been concerned about high rates of
diabetes and weight-related health issues. More than half of adult New Yorkers are obese or
overweight, according to the city’s health department, which said it believed 5,000 New Yorkers died
every year as a result of health problems related to obesity.
Critics of the mayor’s proposal — including some City Council members and a mayoral contender,
the former city comptroller, William C. Thompson — said the measure could lead to small
businesses losing money on sales. An advertising campaign by the soda industry, which has so far
cost more than $1 million, stressed that the policy would restrict consumers’ freedom to buy
beverages as they see fit.
But those positions were rejected on Thursday by the board, which voted 8 to 0, with one abstention,
to approve the measure. (The board has 11 members, all appointed by Mr. Bloomberg. One was
absent from Thursday’s hearing and another retired from the board this summer and has not yet been
“I can’t imagine the board not acting on another problem that is killing 5,000 people per year,” said
Dr. Joel A. Forman, a board member and professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, before voting
in favor of the proposal. “The evidence strongly supports a relationship between sweet drinks and
Dr. Deepthiman K. Gowda, a professor of medicine at Columbia University and a member of the
Board of Health, said he recognized that the public had concerns about the plan. But, he said, he had
seen firsthand the deadly effect of obesity on patients he has treated in the city.
“The same way that we’ve become acclimatized and normalized to sodas that are 32 ounces, we’ve
started to become acclimatized to the prevalence of obesity in our society,” Dr. Gowda said. “The
reality is, we are in a crisis, and I think we have to act on this.”
The member who abstained, Sixto R. Caro, is a former president of the Spanish American Medical
Dental Society of New York who was appointed by Mr. Bloomberg in 2002. He expressed concern
that the plan did not do enough to lower obesity rates, and said the city should take a more holistic
Only establishments that receive inspection grades from the health department, including movie
theaters and stadium concession stands, will be subject to the rules. Convenience stores, including 7-
Eleven and its king-size Big Gulp drinks, would be exempt, along with vending machines and some
The restrictions would not affect fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic
beverages; no-calorie diet sodas would not be affected, but establishments with self-service drink
fountains, like many fast-food restaurants, would not be allowed to stock cups larger than 16 ounces.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg announced that the Barclays Center, the new
basketball arena in Brooklyn that is to open next week, would immediately begin complying with the
new rules and offer sugary drinks only in containers of 16 ounces or less.
Asked about the soda industry’s well-financed campaign against his plan, Mr. Bloomberg responded
with an amused look.
“I just spent roughly $600 million of my own money to try to stop the scourge of tobacco,” the
mayor said, as a round of laughter began to rise in the room. “I’m looking for another cause. How
much were they spending again?”
Reflection: Is it the government’s responsibility (or right) to regulate sugary drink portions?
Explain/justify your opinion.