New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of large cups of sugary drinks inched closer to reality Tuesday, with the city Board of Health unanimously voting to publish the plan for public review.
The board, an 11-member panel appointed by Bloomberg, gave the green light to publish the mayor's proposal and hold a public hearing July 24. A final vote on the proposal is slated for Sept. 13.
Bloomberg has recommended a ban on the sale of sugary drinks -- such as soda, sports drinks, sweetened tea or coffee -- in cups or containers that have more than 16 fluid ounces. The ban would affect beverages served at restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas.
Beverage and restaurant industry executives have already begun examining different options, including a possible lawsuit, to block the city from instituting the ban. If the board approves the proposal in September, as expected, the ban would not start until March.
At the hearing, officials pointed out that large sugary drinks are a leading cause of the nation's obesity epidemic, and the consumption of these drinks is linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Despite the unanimous vote, board members questioned various aspects of the plan. One asked why the department set a cut-off of 16 fluid ounces. There were also questions about the details of the proposal, such as which drinks are banned and which venues would be affected. One member asked about refills; they are allowed.
Earlier this month, in an interview shortly after the mayor's proposal became public, board member and president of the Staten Island Mental Health Society Dr. Kenneth Popler said he would vote for the mayor's proposal. He said he understands how some may view the plan as an "infringement on their rights" but the "sole purpose" of the Department of Health is to improve the lives of New Yorkers.
"To that end," he said, "I think it's a good idea." Popler is retiring from the board this summer.
Dr. Marlon Brewer, a board member who works at Elmhurst Hospital, said he's leaning toward voting for the proposal. "I need to read more about it," he said.
Riders should anticipate some changes but "near normal" service on the Long Island Rail Road for the morning rush. Crews have bee working to repair tracks and switches after Monday's derailment.