Supporters pack Health Department's soda ban public hearing
When they had their chance to speak up Tuesday, opponents of the mayor's supersized soda ban largely held their peace.
All but four of the 64 participants who signed up for Tuesday's public hearing at the Department of Health's offices were elected officials or representatives of groups.
The ban, which would go into effect next March if approved, would prohibit the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces from any business that gets a letter grade from the city.
Most of the speakers said the ban was needed because too many New Yorkers are suffering from obesity related problems
"It makes the healthier choice of a smaller drink size the routine choice," Lois Utley of the Public Health Association of New York City said.
Some soda companies and city businesses have been protesting the ban for weeks, contending it will reduce consumers' choices and hurt the economy.
Vanessa Lockel, the executive director at the New York City Beverage Association, said the companies were unnecessarily being blamed for the obesity epidemic.
"It's very important to see it is distracting us from real issues," she said.
Several health experts who spoke before the Health Department's board disagreed.
Kelly Brownell, a professor of nutrition at Yale University, said the body processes calories from sodas differently than other foods and he considers larger portions toxic.
"They are using the same tactics as the tobacco companies," he said of the soda companies.
The department received more than 30,000 online comments on the ban, according to a Health Department representative.
The board will vote on the proposal in September.
Health Commissioner Tom Farley said he thinks New Yorkers will come around and accept the proposal since the obesity epidemic is already killing 5,800 people in the city every year,
"If a virus were killing 5,800 a year, the public would be clamoring for government intervention," he said during a news conference before the hearing.