Gentile won’t swallow soda ban

September 7, 2012 By Paula Katinas
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Weight Watchers is on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s side in the soda wars, but Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) said he’s still not ready to gulp down the idea.

Gentile sent the mayor a letter on Aug. 27 to state his opposition to the mayor’s plan to ban restaurants from selling sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces.

On Sept. 5, one day after Bloomberg was joined at a City Hall press conference by a Weight Watchers leader endorsing the super-size soda ban, Gentile distributed his letter again to the news media.

Gentile charged that the mayor is overstepping his authority with the ban. “I found this first-in­the-nation proposal not only to be misguided but completely unacceptable; it is authoritarian, interfering and overprotective – a complete intrusion of the government into the most fundamental rights of Americans: the right to choose,” Gentile wrote.

“Clearly, some people choose unhealthy food for themselves and their families on a daily basis. However, eliminating their ability to make these choices will not result in the necessary lifelong commitment that is required to maintain a healthy lifestyle – education is the only cure. Instead of taking away New Yorkers’ beloved big sodas, we should educate them while ensuring that they have access to affordable, healthy foods and recreational space. Instead of regulating their options, we must motivate them to get and stay active,” Gentile wrote.

“It is my firm belief that such a ban needs legislative approval of the City Council and that, without it, the Health Department lacks the statutory authority to institute such a ban,” Gentile wrote.

The city’s Board of Health will vote on the mayor’s proposal on Sept. 13.

On Sept. 4, Bloomberg welcomed the endorsements of representatives of such diet groups as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig to his effort to get New Yorker to stop buying sodas.

“It’s time to face the facts: obesity is one of America’s most deadly problems, and sugary beverages are a leading cause of it,” Bloomberg said at the press conference.

 “As the size of sugary drinks has grown, so have our waistlines – and so have diabetes and heart disease. As weight-loss experts can attest, men and women struggle every day to lose weight, or even to just not gain a few pounds – and portion control is key to success. Our proposal for reasonable portion sizes won’t prevent anyone from buying or drinking as much soda as they want, but it will help people keep from inadvertently taking in junk calories simply because the small drink they ordered was actually very large,” the mayor said.

“There has been a lot of discussion about obesity, but little action, which is why we at Weight Watchers support what this administration is doing to help New Yorkers live healthier,” said David Burwick, president of Weight Watchers in North America. “It is only with this kind of commitment and community-based support that major strides can be made against obesity. We hope that more mayors, health departments and businesses will follow New York City’s example to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” he said.

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