The New York City Board of Health passed a ban on the sale of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces at fast-food restaurants, street vendors, and movie theaters on Thursday, supporting Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his goal of combating the rising obesity rate.
I'm an advocate of healthy living habits and personally don't drink sugary beverages, but I'm not convinced that barring large quantities of sugar-packed soft drinks is going to change consumers' habits.
Consumers have other options. They could buy two medium-sized soft drinks. If the price deters them from that alternative, many fast-food chains allow customers to have free refills, so nothing is stopping people from refilling their cups three or four times before finishing their meal.
The Health Department stated that about 5,000 New Yorkers die each year from obesity-related illnesses, and there's a correlation between sugary drinks and obesity. While that statistic may be accurate, banning 16-ounce drinks in fast-food restaurants and movie theaters still leaves people with the option to guzzle gallons of sugary beverages they can buy at grocery stores.
But regardless of whether the beverage ban works, Bloomberg's campaign, with its tweets from third-party experts and former President Bill Clinton, proved to be more effective than the soft-drink industry's $1 million PR effort opposing the ban. In July, the industry created a coalition called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, led by the American Beverage Association, which featured radio commercials of actors with exaggerated New York accents talking about their freedom to make their own decisions.
Following Thursday's announcement, the coalition said it is considering legal action to challenge the plan.
"This is not the end," Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for the group, said in a written statement. "We will continue to voice our opposition to this ban and fight for the right of New Yorkers to make their own choices. And we will stand with the business owners who will be hurt by these arbitrary limitations."