First Lady Walks Line on NYC Sugary Drink Ban

She offered kind words for Mayor Bloomberg's proposal, then backed away

By Nancy Benac
|  Tuesday, Jun 5, 2012  |  Updated 4:32 PM EDT
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Mayor Plans Ban on Large Sugary Drinks

Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban on certain sugary drinks in New York City restaurants, movie theaters, food carts and concession stands has many New Yorkers outraged. Bloomberg came out to publicly back his plan Thursday. Melissa Russo reports.
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First lady Michelle Obama says banning big servings of sugary drinks isn't anything she'd want to do at the federal level but she offered some kind words for Mayor Bloomberg's effort to do just that.

Shortly after saying that Tuesday, the first lady issued a statement backing away from taking a stand on New York's controversial proposed ban.

It was a telling example of the fine line the first lady walks as she tries to improve Americans' health and eating habits without provoking complaints that she's part of any "nanny state" telling people how to eat or raise their children.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama said there's no "one-size-fits-all" solution for the country's health challenges. Asked specifically about Bloomberg's proposal, she said, "We applaud anyone who's stepping up to think about what changes work in their communities. New York is one example."

And asked whether the nation's obesity epidemic warrants taking a more aggressive approach, such as Bloomberg's, she said, "There are people like Mayor Bloomberg who are, and that is perfectly fine."

In a statement later, Obama said she hadn't intended to weigh in on the Bloomberg plan "one way or the other."

"I was trying to make the point that every community is different and every solution is different and that I applaud local leaders including mayors, business leaders, parents, etc., who are taking this issue seriously and working towards solving this problem."

"But this is not something the administration is pursuing at a federal level and not something I'm specifically endorsing or condemning," she said.

In the interview, Obama said she's "trying to create a big tent for people. Our motto is everyone has a role to play in this and I think it's up to communities and families to figure out what role they can play, what role they should play."

Last week, Bloomberg proposed limiting portion sizes of sugary drinks to 16 ounces at the city's restaurants, delis, food trucks, movie theaters and sporting arenas. Regular soda and sports drinks would be affected, while diet sodas wouldn't.

The ban has been denounced by the soft-drink industry and critics who accuse the mayor of trying to institute a "nanny state" rather than allowing individuals to make their own choices. It's expected to win the approval of the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health and take effect as early as March.

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