Opponents of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soda ban took to the streets, saying it goes too far in trying to regulate people's choices. Bloomberg wants New York City restaurants to stop serving sodas and other sugary drinks bigger than 16 ounces, claiming they contribute to obesity. Zack Fink has the story.
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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. -- Claiming they have no ties to the powerful beverage industry, New Yorkers rallied for what they say is a personal liberty.
"As Americans in a free society, we need to have choices. And it’s up to people to take personal responsibility for themselves, not for the nanny state to dictate," said Danny Panzella of the State Island Libertarian Party.
Last month, the city's board of health took the first step toward banning sugary drinks over 16 ounces. The prohibition would apply to stadiums, movie theaters restaurants and some stores.
"I don't believe that it's Mayor Bloomberg's or the government's responsibility to tell us if we can have salt on the table, what we drink and what we eat," said Andrea Hebert.
For his part, Mayor Bloomberg claims that the city must do what it can to combat rising health care costs due to obesity. He says roughly 34 percent of New Yorkers are overweight and 22 percent are obese. The mayor saw no humor in the rally being dubbed the "Big Gulp March."
"In New York City alone, we're going to spend $4 billion of your money to treat obesity related diseases. It's a $100 plus million, billion, dollars across the country and skyrocketing. We just have to do something about it and if somebody wants to have a march, I suppose it's funny, but it is so tragic what is happening I have to say the humor kind of escapes me," Bloomberg said.
Organizers of the rally say the mayor is being hypocritical.
"Hey, you go to National Donut Day, you go and mc eating 68 consecutive hot dogs and endorse this kind of stuff, then you come over and tell us 20 ounces is too much," organizer Zach Huff said.
Some elected officials argue that the ban, which does not include convenience or grocery stores, is too selective.
"You could have a 7-11 next to a bodega. The bodega is banned, the 7-11 is not. There is a question as to whether or not Starbucks is permitted to sell sugary sodas and if it’s a supermarket, they are exempt as well. So the arbitrariness of this really bothers me," City Council Member Letitia James said.
There is a public hearing later this month. A final vote could take place in September and that would put the ban into effect by next March.