The soda wars, it seems, are just revving up.
On one side is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and a host of other elected officials and advocates who say is crucial to combating a nationwide obesity epidemic.
On the other, a multi-billion dollar soft drink industry that may have just gained an unlikely ally: Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Prospect Heights, who blasted the proposal Monday as bad for business and limiting the choice of poorer city residents.
"I've thought long and hard about the ban," James said. "But after talking with business owners and residents ... I believe the ban would be arbitrarily and unfairly applied."
James' opposition comes as the soft drink industry unveiled a coalition, "New Yorkers For Beverage Choices," featuring a series of ads with "real" city residents railing against the proposed ban.
Unveiled in May, Bloomberg's plan would ban the sale of any cup or bottle of a sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces—the size of a "grande" hot beverage at Starbucks. In practice, that would bar shoppers from buying larger, and by volume, cheaper, containers of soda for their families.
The plan could be instituted as early as March and is subject to a vote by members of the city Board of Health, many of whom are Bloomberg appointees.
Members of the soft drink lobby met with James, along with Melissa Mark Vivierto, D-Manhattan, and Maria del Carmen Arroyo, D-Bronx, who represent communities seeing some of the highest rise in rates of childhood obesity.
James said she planned to visit supermarkets with representatives of Coca-Cola to discuss the soda ban with shoppers—perhaps as early as this week.
"I’m concerned about fitness, healthy living and reducing negative health outcomes," she said. "But the best way to address those indicators is for the city to adequately finance parks in areas where there are high rates of obesity."