Soda Ban FAQ: How NYC’s Large-Drink Rules Work

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Bottles of soda are displayed on a shelf in New York in January.

New York City’s new rules limiting the sale of large sugary-drink goes into effect citywide later this month. As the Journal found today, restaurants, bars and movie theaters are already rolling out plans for the smaller-soda era.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have argued the ban will help chip away at the city’s rising rates of obesity and diabetes, citing to statistics that show 58% of adult New Yorkers and 40% of public-school students are overweight or obese. The beverage industry and small businesses are fighting the ban in court, and the policy has been met with no small amount of criticism.

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the ban.

What size beverages are banned? The maximum size for a high-sugar drink from a fountain or in a prepackaged container is 16 oz.

Which beverages are included in the ban? All non-diet sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks or sweetened teas that are less than 50 % milk or milk substitute and have more than 25 calories for every 8 ounces.

Which are excluded? The ban does not apply to alcoholic beverages or low-calorie drinks (25 calories or fewer per 8 ounces) including diet sodas, water, unsweetened coffees and teas or vegetable and fruit juices without added sugar.

How much is the fine? The fine is $200 for each violation.

Is there a grace period? Yes. The ban takes effect on March 12, and violators will be notified after that date. But they will not face fines for the first three months. Starting in June, violators will be fined.

Which establishments must comply with the ban? Sit-down and fast food restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas, mobile food carts and tucks that are permitted by and received a letter grade from the city Department of Health.

Which establishments are excluded? Supermakets and convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, that are regulated by the state.

What are some of the more unexpected implications of the new rules? It’s still unclear if bottle service available at glitzy nightlife locations in the city will come up against the large-drink limits. Customers at restaurants and night clubs might order a carafe of sweetened cranberry juice, tonic water or soda — beverages covered under the ban — to mix with a bottle of vodka. Restaurant-delivery orders, such as pizza, will no longer be able to sell 2-liter bottles of soda.

Is there any wiggle room? There will be a 1-oz. margin of error for drinks included in the new rules, said Sam Miller, a spokesman for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The city sent an explanation of the rules to the 24,000 food-service establishments that fall under the ban and encouraged them to call 311 with additional questions.

Who is fighting the new rules?  A lawsuit filed in October by the American Beverage Association, National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, the National Restaurant Association and others seeks to overturn the Bloomberg administration’s policy, and the organizations want to postpone the start of the ban. A judge hasn’t ruled.


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    • One more example of government trying to modify lifestyle choices. This will end up a dismal failure just like all others.

    • The night club example is an interesting question-mark as usually the mixers are thrown in gratis after buying the bottle (less the Red Bull which is less than 16oz anyways).

    • Bottles of obesity

    • Watch out for the pop cops?

      Consumer: “No officer, it really is diet.”

      Pop Cop: “Tell it to the judge.”

    • Recently moving to NYC from abroad I have to say there are alot of fat people in NYC. Its not attractive or healthy. How many fat people are taking up two seats on the Subway making the responsible ones stand up. I hope food portion sizes are dealt with next. We Americans are being poisoned by the amount of food and corn syrup (not sugar) that is pushed onto us by the food industry.

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