Most oppose NYC plan to curb sugary drinks - poll
* 64 percent would oppose similar sugary drink limits
* More than 70 percent see little impact on obesity
* 70 percent would change habits, drink less sugary drinks
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - Most Americans oppose New York City's plan to limit the serving size of sugary drinks and don't see it helping the fight against obesity, yet even more say they would switch to lower-calorie beverages or consume less as a result, according to a nationwide American Mosaic Reuters/Ipsos poll.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a plan last week to limit single servings of full-calorie sodas, sports drinks and other beverages to no more than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters and other public venues. The move, aimed at curbing behaviors that contribute to the nation's obesity epidemic, ignited fierce criticism from the beverage industry.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday said they would oppose the introduction of a similar measure where they live, saying it gave government too much control over people's dietary choices.
More than 70 percent of the nearly 1,000 U.S. adults polled online also said they did not think the proposed rule would affect obesity rates. About 30 percent disagreed, saying it could help curb obesity and lower healthcare costs. For a graphic, see: link.reuters.com/nes68s
At the same time, the majority of those polled said that if faced with a similar ban, they would significantly change their own drinking habits by switching to water, low-calorie drinks or diet beverages, or simply consuming fewer full-calorie drinks.
Fewer than one-third of respondents said they would buy additional servings to compensate for a such a ban, according to the online survey.
The New York City proposal could go into effect early next year if passed by the city's health board. It would not affect the size of beverages sold in grocery stores and similar retailers.
The proposal has opened a new front in the nation's battle of the bulge at a time when two-thirds of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese. Public health experts and government officials are particularly worried about rising obesity rates among children.
Health advocates see reducing the intake of sugary drinks as a prime target in helping people control their weight, because they are consumed in large quantities and packed with excess calories that offer little nutritional benefit.
Major beverage makers and their lobbying groups have spent billions of dollars over the years to both market and defend their products, saying consumers have a right to chose what they drink and that their products are not to blame for the U.S. obesity epidemic.
At the same time, manufacturers have also expanded their product lines with lower-calorie options and some smaller sizes.
New York's ban signals a potential new tack by policymakers, who have focused so far on largely unsuccessful legislative efforts to tax such beverages. Other efforts have targeted the sale of sugary drinks in schools and government vending machines, as well as a general push to boost calorie-burning activities.
New York City's health commissioner, Thomas Farley, has defended the proposal and likened initial opposition to the one that public smoking bans initially faced. Since his city banned indoor smoking in 2003, the number of adult smokers has fallen from roughly 20 percent to 14 percent, he said.
"We are very optimistic about where is this going," he told a conference in Washington on Thursday aimed at reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.
According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, a higher proportion of people who oppose smoking bans also oppose the proposed New York drink limits, 84 percent versus 64 percent.
The poll, conducted for Thomson Reuters by Ipsos, surveyed 977 American adults. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3.6 percentage points. (Editing by Michele Gershberg and Doina Chiacu)
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