Big Gulp

It’s a groundbreaking move. One that is taking franchises and concession stands across one of the world’s most populated cities by storm. And it’s all part of the fight to end obesity in the United States.

New York City has banned super-sized sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, theatres and concession stands. Although many people praised the move, others are calling it an intrusive act by a mayor who can’t mind his own business.

Health and nutrition experts, along with industry executives, will be closely observing how this move plays out — especially amongst New Yorkers, who are collectively known as a no-nonsense bunch. Barring any court action, the measure will reportedly take effect in March 2013.

There are reports that the new regulations were approved swiftly by the city’s Board of Health. The rules will apply to any establishment with a food-service license. These establishments include fast-food places, delis, movie and Broadway theatres. The iconic concession stands at Yankee stadium and the pizzerias of Little Italy will also get swept up into the super-size ban.

They will all be prohibited from serving sugary beverages in cups or bottles larger than 16 ounces.

So far, no other U.S. city has taken a step this vast to fight obesity.

In a press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision. Meanwhile, according to the Vancouver Sun, he rejected suggestions that the rule constitutes an assault on personal liberty. He noted that customers can still buy as much soda as they want, as long as they are willing to carry it in multiple containers.

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The Vancouver Sun adds that the mayor believes the inconvenience is well worth the potential public health benefit. He also likened the city’s actions to measures taken decades ago to phase out lead in household paint.

Critics, however, were quick to react. Some of them likened the ban to Prohibition.
The Vancouver Sun quotes a New York Times poll. Last month, the survey suggested that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed the restrictions.

The restrictions reportedly do not apply to supermarkets or most convenience stores. That’s because such establishments are not subject to Board of Health regulation. And there are exceptions for beverages made mostly of milk or unsweetened fruit juice.

But an interesting note: Because convenience stores are exempt, the rules don’t even apply to 7-Eleven’s Big Gulp. Even though, as the Vancouver Sun smartly notes, the “belly-busting serving of soda has become Exhibit A in the debate over Americans’ eating habits.”

Some health experts have reportedly said it isn’t clear whether the ban will have any effect on obesity. But they said it might help trigger a change in attitude toward overeating. Much the same way that many Americans have come to view smoking as inconsiderate.

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