City officials say it's a pioneering, practical step to staunch an obesity rate that has risen from 18 to 24 percent in a decade among adult New Yorkers. Health officials say sugar-filled drinks bear much of the blame because they carry hundreds of calories — a 32-ounce soda has more than a typical fast-food cheeseburger — without making people feel full.
The city "has the ability to do this and the obligation to try to help," the plan's chief cheerleader, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said last month.
Critics say the regulation won't make a meaningful difference in diets but will unfairly hurt some businesses while sparing others. A customer who can't get a 20-ounce Coke at a sandwich shop could still buy a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven, for instance, since many convenience stores and supermarkets are beyond the city's regulatory reach.
New Yorkers are divided on the restriction. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found 51 percent opposed it, while 46 percent approved.
"I don't know if the state should be our surrogate parent," Peter Sarfaty, 71, said as he drank a diet cola with lunch in Manhattan this week. "You get the information out there, but to tell people what they can or can't do? As if it's going to stop them."
Business organization ranging from the massive American Beverage Association to a local Korean-American grocers' group have asked a judge to stop the size limit from taking effect until he decides on their bid to block it altogether. He hasn't ruled on either request.
Many businesses aren't taking chances in the meantime.
Dominic Fazio, the manager of a Penn Station pizzeria, has stopped ordering 32-ounce and 24-ounce cups, though he calls the regulation "ridiculous."