New Yorkers on benefits face fizzy drinks ban


Dennis, Johnson and Javii,

With a month to go before the height of summer, temperatures in New York are already hitting 30C (86F).

For Dennis, Johnson and Javii, playing basketball in the Bronx, it's the kind of weather for a refreshing fizzy drink.

"Soda's good for us," says Johnson.

Dennis is even sure fizzy drinks can help with medical problems: "If you have a stomach ache," he says, "What does your mom buy?"

He answers his own question: "Ginger ale, right? That's a soda."

Twenty-three-year-old Dominique Pleasant is sitting nearby with her two daughters. They're all drinking cans of cola.

Like more than a quarter of people in the Bronx, Dominique qualifies for food stamps.

"Food stamps is free money from the government to purchase food," she explains.

"It's for people on low incomes, single parent families like us or people that don't have a job."

'It's stupid'

It's estimated 1.7 million New Yorkers claim food stamps.

Now the city's waiting to hear if the federal government in Washington will allow a ban on spending food stamps on fizzy drinks.

Dennis, Johnson and Javii
Image caption Dennis, Johnson and Javii enjoy a fizzy drink while playing basketball

Health officials say it's to cut obesity and tackle illnesses like diabetes.

"I think it's stupid," says Dominique. "It makes no sense. The air we are breathing is bad but they aren't trying to stop that."

New York has seen a long line of moves lately to try to improve public health.

It's just banned smoking in public parks. Chain restaurants have to put calorie counts on menus.

There's been a series of hard-hitting adverts on local TV warning of the dangers of fizzy drinks.

Officials say it's about helping people make the right choices.