NEW YORK — New York City cracked down on the sale of supersized sodas and other sugary drinks Thursday in what was celebrated as a groundbreaking attempt to curb obesity, but condemned as a blatant intrusion into people's lives by a busybody mayor.
Public health experts around the nation — and the restaurant and soft-drink industry — will be watching closely to see how it goes over among New Yorkers, a famously disputatious bunch. Barring any court action, the measure will take effect in March.
The regulations, approved easily by the city Board of Health, apply to any establishment with a food-service license, including fast-food places, delis, theaters, concession stands at Yankee Stadium and Little Italy pizzerias. They will be barred from serving sugary beverages in cups or bottles larger than 16 ounces.
No other U.S. city has gone so far as to restrict portion sizes at restaurants to fight weight gain.
"We cannot continue to have our kids come down with diabetes at age 6," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
He rejected suggestions that the rule constitutes an assault on personal liberty. "Nobody is banning anything," he said, noting that restaurant customers can still buy as much soda as they want, as long as they carry it in multiple containers.
Others, though, likened the ban to Prohibition. A New York Times poll last month showed that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed the restrictions.
"It's a slippery slope. When does it stop? What comes next?" said Sebastian Lopez, a college student from Queens. He added: "This is my life. I should be able to do what I want."
The restrictions don't apply to supermarkets or most convenience stores, because such establishments aren't subject to Board of Health regulation. Beverages made mostly of milk or unsweetened fruit juice.