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Queens Chronicle

Big soda ban is absurd for so many reasons

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:34 am, Thu Feb 21, 2013.

Back in September, the city Board of Health rubber-stamped Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial ban on the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces. Now some organizations are fighting the ban in court — and as president of the Throggs Neck Merchant Association, I’m glad they are.

Under the ban, set to take effect March 12, restaurants, some delis, food vendors, movie theaters and any other local business that sells sodas will be prohibited from offering cups larger than 16 ounces. Since a consumer may simply purchase two smaller sizes, this new regulation defies common sense. What’s next — a ban on the amount of ice cream or chocolate a person can consume?

This restriction is unlike any other the United States has ever seen. And there’s a reason for that: It’s a restriction that goes too far.

Does this city, like the rest of America, have an obesity problem? Of course it does. But why are we pointing fingers at one particular product? Why are we assuming that every individual who opts to purchase a large size of that product has a weight problem? And why are we instituting a ban that will likely have a detrimental effect on New York’s merchant community at a time when our economy is just creeping back from the brink?

Not to mention the fact that the regulation is applied unfairly and unequally to local delis and bodegas and not to state-regulated stores such as 7-Eleven.

If we stand back and let this beverage ban take effect this spring, it’s only a matter of time before the city again starts pointing a finger at other high-calorie foods and the small business owners who offer them. Business owners offer size options to patrons for the simple reason that their patrons want size options.

It’s time we all took a little responsibility for these wants and choices instead of passing insulting, business-killing regulations that do little to address the root of the problem.

Throggs Neck merchants, like those in Queens and elsewhere, have been dealing with numerous cumbersome and over-reaching New York City regulations that have a direct impact on the survival of local businesses and the communities they service. The city is besieging small business owners with exorbitant fines and penalties for tickets written by overzealous traffic enforcement agents, health inspectors and sanitation employees — to the tune of astronomical sums.

At this distressing and difficult time, City Hall’s focus must be on increasing financial opportunities for local businesses, not on nickel and diming our entrepreneurs to death. The Throggs Neck Merchant Association is dedicated to reminding our civic leaders of just that!

Stephen B. Kaufman is an attorney, president of the Throggs Neck Merchant Association and a former city councilman and state assemblyman from the Bronx.

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