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NYC soda ban goes into effect in March, but fines won't start for 3 months

NEW YORKNew York City's ban on big sodas is set to go into effect in March, but businesses will still have a few months to adjust to the new regulations before they're hit with fines.

Soda sellers are set to get a three-month grace over fines but officials still plan to start enforcing a 16-ounce size limit March 12, the city health department confirmed Monday.

Officials broached the timeframe at a court conference last week.

Violators would just get notices for the first three months, then they could face $200 fines.

Soda makers and other businesses have sued to try to block Mayor Michael Bloomberg' enacted size limit from taking effect. They say it's government nagging and exceeds the city Board of Health's authority.

City officials call it a groundbreaking step in fighting obesity. In September, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley disputed critics' arguments that the ban would restrict personal choice.

"We see this as an increase in choice options in healthier sizes," he said, citing the difficulty of finding drinks smaller than 32 ounces at movie theaters or 8-ounce drinks at many eateries. "We are just making healthy choices easier."

The rule applies to restaurants, fast-food chains, theaters, delis and office cafeterias, but not convenience stores or supermarkets. Drinks that are more than half milk or 70 percent juice would be exempt, and the rule wouldn't apply to lower-calorie drinks like water or diet soda, or to alcoholic beverages. Consumers who purchase 16-ounce sugary drinks will be allowed refills depending on the establishment, or won't be forbidden from buying multiple beverages.

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