January 23 (RIA Novosti) - A New York City ban on giant, sugar-filled soft drinks that is set to go into effect in March was challenged in state court Wednesday by opponents who say it is unfair to lower income businesses and disproportionately affects minorities.
“The ban will be ineffective in that it does not get to the root of the problem of obesity in New York or in the African American community,” said Hazel Dukes, President of the New York State division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“A real solution would address issues like access to healthier foods, particularly in the food deserts that exist in low-income neighborhoods. The law risks disproportionately impacting the people who can least afford it: those who frequent corner markets and not gourmet stores,” she added.
The NAACP, Hispanic Federation and the Korean-American Grocers Association of New York have joined soft drink makers and sellers in fighting the ban, proposed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by the New York City Board of Health in September.
“This is the biggest step a city has taken to curb obesity,” said Bloomberg at the time. “New Yorkers will soon consume fewer junk calories and eventually begin turning the tide of the obesity epidemic that is destroying the health of far too many of our citizens.”
The new regulation prohibits the sale of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces (473 milliliters), and provides for fines of up to $200.
Nearly 60 percent of New York City adults and 40 percent of children are overweight, according to data released by Bloomberg’s office.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds obesity rates are higher among African Americans and Hispanics than among whites.
"Hispanic-owned restaurants and bodegas have been part of New York City's landscape for generations,” said Hispanic Federation President Jose Calderon in a statement.
“For our small businesses to be financially harmed and disadvantaged because of a misguided ban on certain soft drinks - a ban that would fail at seriously addressing the real causes of obesity - is wrong and unreasonable,” he said.
The American Beverage Association, which was leading the opposition to the ban, said it expects a final court ruling to take several weeks.