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Coke joins New York battle to beat ban on super-size soft drinks

By Noel Young | Correspondent

July 1, 2012 | 3 min read

New York is fizzing. Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in cafes, restaurants, pubs , cinemas and sports grounds as part of the war on obesity.

But the soft drinks industry is fighting back in defence of super-size drinks.

A 16 oz Coke cup

Lobbyists from Coca-Cola and other big soft-drink firms have met mayoral candidates and councillors. New Yorkers are being urged to sign petitions. Facebook and Twitter pages tell readers to “say no to a #sodaban.”

The New York Times reports that the industry has created a grassroots-style coalition called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices to coordinate its PR . A one-minute radio ad featuring actors with "Noo Yawk" voices insists, “This is New York City; no one tells us what neighborhood to live in or what team to root for.

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"So are we going to let our mayor tell us what size beverage to buy?” A Brooklyn-tinged voice adds “It’s unbelievable!”

The Washington-based American Beverage Association, whose strategy helped defeat President Bill Clinton’s health care plan in the 1990s, is on the case.

They would not disclose their budget for the New York campaign, though a spokesman said the group was “prepared to utilise whatever resources are necessary.”

Since 2009 the city has run ads in subways, in print, on the Internet and on television, linking soft drink consumption to obesity. The campaign has cost $2.8 million, 87 percent paid by the federal government.

The industry faces a tough fight in New York.The restrictions require approval only by the Board of Health - whose members were appointed by mayor Bloomberg.

The board will hold a public hearing on July 24, and the industry wants opponents to show up in droves.

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