'What's Next? Popcorn? Pizza?'

More than 70,000 New Yorkers sign petition, say "no" to big soda ban

Published in CSP Daily News

NEW YORK -- New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said that approximately 72,000 New Yorkers have signed onto a petition against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed big soda ban, affirming that "they are capable of making their own food and beverage choices."

The coalition said that it is encouraging all New Yorkers to make their voices heard by filing a comment with the Department of Health in advance of a July 24 public hearing on the proposal. Canvassers are on the streets in all five boroughs educating New Yorkers about the impact of the proposed ban, collecting signatures and recruiting individuals and businesses to join the coalition.

"These numbers are a testament to the fact that New Yorkers feel this proposal is arbitrary, ineffective and overzealous," said Eliot Hoff, spokesperson for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices. "New Yorkers just aren't going to accept government dictating what they are allowed to drink, and in what quantities. It's not what New Yorkers want or need. And you have to wonder what's next? Popcorn? Pizza?"

New Yorkers for Beverage Choices is a coalition of restaurants, movie theaters, New York businesses and citizens opposed to the proposed size restrictions on sugar-sweetened beverages. The proposal would limit the sale of certain beverages like soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks, flavored waters and ready to drink teas larger than 16 ounces at delis, restaurants, movie theaters, street carts, sports arenas, corner stores and bodegas, but not convenience stores that do not have foodservice ( click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage).

"Instead of helping us through this recession, the Mayor's misguided proposal will target the small-business owner with additional regulations," said Henry Calderon, president of the East Harlem Chamber of Commerce. "Mom-and-pop shops are struggling to survive. We cannot force them to act as mother and father to their customers, policing what they eat and drink."

According to several recent polls, New Yorkers oppose the proposal to limit the size of a soft drink to 16 ounces. The coalition said it is actively educating New Yorkers, local businesses and lawmakers about the impact of the ban, and encouraging New Yorkers to make their opposition heard.

"We all want a healthier New York, but this just isn't the way to go about it," Councilwoman Letitia James said. "My constituents and people across this city understand the need for real solutions that take into account the socio-economic landscape of this city and the complexities of people's food choices. We need better education and funding for health programs, not gimmicks."

In addition to the approximately 72,000 individual members, more than 750 businesses have also joined the coalition because the proposed ban impacts a broad array of businesses including restaurants, movie theaters, retailers, delis and beverage companies. In particular, the proposed restriction unfairly impacts small businesses, pitting them against neighboring grocery and c-stores.