New York mayor proposes ban on big sugary drinks

Soft drinks on the shelves of a shop in Illinois, US The proposals would see large-size sugary drinks taken off shelves and menus

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The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, is calling for a municipal ban on sales of super-sized sugary drinks in an attempt to tackle obesity.

He wants to stop the city's restaurants, delis, sports stadiums and cinemas from selling large sizes of sweetened soft drinks.

Research suggests that 58% of adults in New York are obese or overweight.

The New York City Beverage Association said the measures, which could come into effect next year, were "zealous".

"The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda [sweetened soft drinks] because soda is not driving the obesity rates," spokesman Stefan Friedman said in a statement.

But officials at Mayor Bloomberg's office at City Hall disagree. Citing a 2006 study, they argue that sugary drinks are the biggest factor in rising calorie consumption and obesity levels.

On its website, the New York City Department of Health describes how drinking one 20-ounce (590ml) sweetened soft drink a day translates into eating 50 pounds (22.6kg) of sugar a year.

Public health crusader

"Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, 'oh, this is terrible,'" Mayor Bloomberg told The New York Times.

"New York City is not about wringing your hands; it's about doing something."

Under the proposals, any bottles of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces would be taken out of the refigerators in cafes while extra-large options will disappear from restaurant menus.

The ban applies only to drinks that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces.

The proposed law on sweetened drinks is the latest in a long line of public health interventions by Mayor Bloomberg's office.

During his three terms in office, he has banned smoking in the city, outlawed trans-fats in restaurants and forced chain restaurants to put calorie-counts on menus.

His zeal for taking steps to make New York a healthier place has earned the mayor the title "Nanny Bloomberg" among his detractors.

The New York Daily News tabloid led its story on the proposed ban with: "Mayor Bloomberg is a big soda scrooge."

On the microblogging site, Twitter, New Jersey native @JTenBring responded to the proposed soda ban by saying: "Law discriminates against those like me. Drink a TON of soda and not only not obese, am underweight. Let me CHOOSE."

The health board and mayor's office have already angered the drinks industry with recent adverts highlighting the dangers of drinking high-calorie drinks. Affected companies are running their own adverts on the New York subway emphasising the importance of "choice".

The proposals on sugary soft drinks will go to New York's Board of Health in June for a final decision.

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