NYC Sued Over Soft Drink Limits

Soda and sugar cubes


Well, that didn’t take long. After being the first US municipality to limit the size of soft drinks sold in various venues, The city of New York is now being sued by the American Beverage Association and other groups.

As you may recall, the sale of sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 oz in theaters, restaurants, and street carts will be banned starting early 2013. People can buy as many 16 oz cups of soda as they want. The logic of this public health policy move is to make the default choice for consumers a more healthy one.

Beverage companies and many consumers are fiercely opposed to this type of regulation, citing “Nanny State”. While some consumers are worried about regulations such as these constricting their personal freedoms, the soft drink industry is making a pure financial calculation. Selling sugar water is profitable. Selling more of it is even more profitable.

Industry is worried about the snowball effect New York’s move will have on other areas of the country, and rightfully so. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Simply by proposing limits on sugary drinks, New York City pushed the issue of obesity – and the impact of sugary beverages – onto the national stage.”

Unfortunately, sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet today. Americans are indirectly paying the price for cheap drinks, in the form of crazy high healthcare costs that are still growing each year. We’re spending $170 billion annually to treat preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension!

New York’s regulation can help take a small dent out of that – the regulation keeps people from drinking extra calories without thinking, according to proponents. Drinking a soda daily, the switch from a 20 fl oz bottle to a 16 oz bottle saves you almost 15,000 calories a year – about 4 pounds of body weight!

According to a spokesperson for New York’s Mayor Bloomberg:

“This predictable, yet baseless, lawsuit fortunately will help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic”

We think New York took a brave step here. What other creative solutions would you propose to really help consumers decrease their sugary beverage intake?

  • Jensen_G

    wow, great photo. When sugaring my tea I sometimes wonder how much better I’m doing with the added sugar compared to soft drinks. Th photo answers it perfectly.

    • Tyson Faulkner

      Not only that, but it’s usually high fructose corn syrup…which is WORSE than even processed sugar. =(

  • Pingback: Healthy Way To Cook Lunch Break Links: Felix Baumgartner's skydive, NYC sued for soda ban, office organization tips, cutest animal GIFs ever, things you do to avoid people - Healthy Way To Cook

  • Annette Maggi


    Thanks for sharing this update. I always appreciate your point of view, but in reality don’t feel like NYC did their homework. There are too many loopholes in this policy. For example, you can buy as much soda as you’d like at a grocery store. Also, you can get an 8 oz. beverage at a restaurant and have it refilled multiple times.

    I just don’t know where all this legislation goes. Nothing is more powerful than the consumer’s spending and purchase decisions on what companies make and sell, so I am of the mindset that we need to work with consumers and help them understand how to build healthy eating habits in totality. If consumers change what they buy, it will impact health and company offerings.

    If NYC put their mind to it and money behind it, what could they do from an education standpoint? Consumers are tired of all the negativity as it relates to health. We need to move the discussion in a different direction.

    Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA

    • Fooducate

      Anette – thanks for your feedback.

      We need to be pragmatic – there will never be a perfect law.
      What Bloomberg did was start a snowball that will lead to increased scrutiny and pressure on junk food companies.
      When spending on consumer nutrition education programs will reach parity with Coke’s Marketing spend ($10B dollars a year), then we can talk about education. Until then, New Yorkers shouldn’t mind getting a little bit of help from their mayor.

    • Michele Simon JD MPH

      that the NYC policy applies only to food service and not stores is not a “loophole” it is based on what the health department has jurisdiction over legally. Many policies are based on such regulatory realities.

  • Tracy

    I think it comes down to the price. I buy the large size because I can share it for cheaper than buying two small drinks. Make a 16oz drink cost twice the 8oz drink and watch people choose the smaller drink. I do the same when I can’t get free refills.

  • dermot heaney

    I would suggest some creative steps to reducing food intake. LIke they did with smokers make fat people sit in the worse seats at the cinema. Make them stand outside buses and be last seated as they over weight. Charge they’re children more for going to college because the parents are over weight. Charge them more for hair cuts. Make it advantageous to be thin. Charge them more in a taxi. The only way to reach these people is to hit their pockets.

    • Fooducate

      Hold on Dermot…
      Big difference between smoking and being overweight. One is an action, the other is a state. It’s like saying punish all the people who have lung cancer.

    • MattFrank

      As someone who is overweight (but losing, the Fooducate app has been very handy…) AND sporting a large frame anyway I think you are being short sited. Smoking is pushed to the outskirts because the smoke infiltrates the environment, very different from someone who is a smoker who walks into a movie theater after smoking.

      I also am curious what you would do with those people who are large and can not lose anymore weight? I am 6’1 and have a “wingspan” of 80 inches. Even if I drove myself down to some very low body fat percentage I would still be quite a bit larger then average. Would I still be hit with the surcharge? How would you figure that out? What about people even taller than I am or people who have more muscle? Never mind that it has been proven that making people feel bad about themselves is a bad way to get people to lose weight…

  • Kris

    You would tink the soda companies would be happy. To get a 20 oz is only pennies more compared to buying several 16 oz sodas. People who like their soda, will in fact buy extra 16oz ones, therefore probably taking in even more sugar than they would with a 20 oz. Personally, altho I am for healthy choices, NYC cannot control obesity by putting a limit on the cup size. How about spending some $$ on educating people about obesity and it’s causes as opposed to trying to limit their personal freedom? What’s next, book banning????

  • Colleen Thomas

    I applaud New York for making this change. I hope that other states follow suit with this. When I was little, kids drinks were these itty bitty cups and I only remember one person being noticeably overweight all through grade school. I really do believe the connection is accurate and this was a great step to take. We’ve become a society of over-indulgence and we need to stop before it’s too late!

  • Nomakeup

    This is an initiative for change and its a great one too. However small an in whatever way this is bein noticed and people are fighting the food industry for better sure it will not stop at optimistic

  • Heather Byers

    I’m disappointed to see our freedom encroached upon by dictating something which should be left to the individual to decide for themselves. If it is that harmful, make it illegal. Until you can, fund campaigns to educate our populace properly on the dangers. Force labeling as dangerous (as we do with alcohol and cigarettes). Put signs in the bathrooms warning about the adverse health effects…as is done with signage warning pregnant women about alcohol consumption but allowing government to dictate how much of something I am allowed to have, when it is perfectly legal to have it, is too controlling. On the flip side, I’m not a fan of sugary fabricated drinks; but, what is next if our people in this (once great) nation are too incompetent to manage their own health? Government mandated diets and P.E.? Sounds like a road away from freedom to me and I can’t support that.