* Bloomberg says 'it will help save lives'
* Other cities could follow in NYC's steps
* Opponents may seek overturn in court
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK, Sept 13 New York City passed the first
U.S. ban of oversized sugary drinks on Thursday in its latest
controversial step to reduce obesity and its deadly
complications in a nation with a weight problem.
By an 8-0 vote with one abstention, the mayoral-appointed
city health board outlawed sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces
nearly everywhere they are sold, except groceries and
convenience stores. Violators of the ban, which does not include
diet sodas, face a $200 fine.
Opponents, who cast the issue as an infringement on personal
freedom and called Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the ban
in May, an overbearing nanny, vowed to continue their fight.
They may go to court in the hopes of blocking or overturning the
measure before it takes effect in March.
"It's sad that the board wants to limit our choices," Liz
Berman, a business owner and chairwoman of New Yorkers for
Beverage Choices, a beverage industry-sponsored group, said in a
statement. "We are smart enough to make our own decisions about
what to eat and drink."
On Twitter, Bloomberg heralded the measure's passage as "the
single biggest step any gov't has taken to curb #obesity. It
will help save lives."
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the measure was
likely to be copied elsewhere in the nation - and even the world
- as were the city's restrictions on trans fats and smoking.
Farley recently said if the law results in "shrinking only
one sugary drink per person every two weeks from 20 ounces to 16
ounces, New Yorkers could collectively prevent 2.3 million
pounds gained per year. This would slow the obesity epidemic and
prevent much needless illness."
WILL OTHER CITIES FOLLOW?
Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center
for Food Policy & Obesity, said there was "quite a good chance"
that other U.S. cities would once again follow New York's lead
and replicate the idea that triggered opponents' outrage and
doubts about the Bloomberg's leadership.
"It doesn't seem so crazy any more. You need somebody to go
first," Brownell told Reuters.
Claiming the ban will hurt small businesses, opponents cited
a recent poll by the New York Times, which reported 60 percent
of New Yorkers believe the ban is a bad idea.
But the Health Department said on Thursday that most of the
extraordinary response it received to the initiative - 32,000 of
nearly 39,000 oral and written comments - favored the
Board members rejected opponents' claims that they merely
rubber-stamped the latest Bloomberg initiative, saying they
discussed the issue at length and felt obligated to take what
board member Dr. Deepthiman Gowda, an internist who teaches at
Columbia University, called "a small step but a bold step and an
Gowda and fellow board member Susan Klitzman, director of
Hunter College's Urban Public Health Program, said they worried
that the city was becoming acclimatized to the problem of excess
"I see the crisis every single day and I feel to not act
would be criminal," Klitzman said.
The board member who abstained from the vote, Dr. Sixto
Caro, an internist, said he did so because he was not convinced
a ban would make a difference in fighting obesity.
About one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10 percent
of the nation's healthcare bill is tied to obesity-related
diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and
hypertension, according to the Organization for Economic
Co-operation and Development.
According to the most recently available data from The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates among
Americans continue to rise. The OECD projects more than two out
of three people will be overweight or obese in some developed
countries by 2020.