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City Lawmaker Calls Big Drink Ban Proposal 'Pointless' And 'Silly'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to tout his plan to ban over-sized sugary drinks in New York City, some city lawmakers are speaking out against the proposal.

In a statement released Friday, council member Dan Halloran said he and council member Oliver Koppell are planning to circulate a petition among fellow lawmakers to prevent the proposal from becoming law.

"New York City needs to trust its citizens to make their own decisions. Like everyone else, I am concerned about the health of New Yorkers, but it isn't the government's job to tell people how much food or drink they are allowed to consume," Halloran said. "Many responsible, healthy, New Yorkers choose to consume a large soda bottle on certain occasions, such as at a movie or baseball game. This does not necessarily reflect an unhealthy lifestyle."

The proposal would put a 16-ounce limit of sugary drinks sold at city restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts and would apply to both bottled and fountain drinks.

"Nobody is taking away any of your rights whatsoever," Bloomberg said Friday on his weekly WOR radio show. "This way, we're just telling you that's a lot of soda and so the restaurant serves it in two, 16-ounce glasses."

It would not include grocery or convenience stores that don't serve prepared food and wouldn't apply to diet soda, other calorie-free drinks or anything that has at least 50 percent milk or milk substitute.

"If anyone wants to continue drinking large sodas, this pointless law won't stop them," Halloran said. "I ask that the mayor rescind this silly, nanny-state idea and let New Yorkers decide how to live their own lives."

Halloran isn't the only one speaking out against the plan. On Thursday, Council Speaker Christine Quinn called it "punitive."

"Much of what the mayor's proposed in this report are good ideas I support. That said, a ban on the size of sugared soda you can buy seems to me, not empowering and not educational, but really punitive," Quinn said.

But others have expressed support for the proposal, including former president Bill Clinton.

"I think he's doing the right thing," Clinton said in an interview on CNN. "If you get rid of these giant, full of sugar drinks, and make people have smaller portions, it will help."

"The mayor's action in restricting some of the sales of the unbelievably sugar-laden drinks is a positive measure," said former mayor Ed Koch in a statement. "I pray it works."

Unlike Bloomberg's previous anti-soda campaigns in years past, like trying to keep food stamps from being used to buy soft drinks, it doesn't seem like this one will go beyond the city level.

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's press secretary issued a statement Friday that said "While the Speaker has reservations about Mayor Bloomberg's plan to ban over-sized sugary drinks, he does not envision legislation to stop this proposal prior to end of session nor is it a priority."

And it's not just lawmakers. The proposal is drawing strong reaction from companies, like Coco-Cola, which issued a statement Thursday that said:

"The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes. We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve. We have prominently placed calorie counts on the front of our bottles and cans and in New York City, restaurants already post the calorie content of all their offerings and portion sizes -- including soft drinks.

New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate."

The International Franchise Association, which represents franchises worldwide, called the plan harmful to small businesses.

"This proposal will harm New York City's thousands of small business franchise owners, job creators and their employees at a time when they are still grappling with a slow economic recovery," IFA said in a statement on its website. "Limiting the sale of beverages to consumers will do nothing more than force small business franchise restaurant owners to raise prices on other items to account for a loss in sales, or worse yet, consider laying-off workers and neither option is a good option."

The Obesity Society has come out in favor of Bloomberg's plan, saying in a statement that it "supports the efforts of Mayor Bloomberg to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces."

"This is a measure that will help efforts to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which research shows are a major contributor to increased calorie intake by both children and adults, thus potentially contributing to the nation's obesity epidemic," it said in the statement. "The New York initiative specifically targets this problem and attempts to bring serving sizes of these beverages back to a more reasonable range."

However, the Obesity Society also said that "it should be noted that not all research demonstrates a link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and obesity."

The proposal would need approval by the city's Board of Health and would take effect as soon as next March if passed.

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