Customer buys refreshments at movie concession stand. (AP photo)
NEW YORK (USA TODAY) -- The Big Apple is turning off the spigot on supersized sugary drinks.
On Thursday, the New York City Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed 16-ounce cap on sweetened bottled drinks and fountain beverages sold at city restaurants, delis, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts.
The beverage ban, which goes into effect on March 12, applies to drinks that have more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It does not include 100% juice drinks or beverages with more than 50% milk.
"The (obesity) epidemic is destroying the health of too many of our citizens & this new policy will begin to change that," Bloomberg tweeted Thursday.
Soft drink makers and sellers, as well as beverage trade groups, quickly condemned the first-of-its-kind ban.
"What we don't need is more burdensome regulation making it harder for businesses to function and skewing the competitive landscape," said New York State Restaurant Association spokesman Andrew Moesel.
New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a coalition funded by the American Beverage Association, said it is "exploring all avenues to challenge the board's ruling, including in court."
Once implemented, the ban could whittle more than waistlines: It could also cut soft drink sellers' profits.
Fountain drinks in particular are high-margin items, said Joe Pawlak, vice president at food industry research firm Technomic."They're one of the most profitable items you'll see," he said.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the advocacy group Center For Science in the Public Interest, says he would like other cities, as well as the government decision makers, to follow New York City's lead. Already, Cambridge, Mass., Mayor Henrietta Davis has considered a ban of supersized sugary soft drinks at restaurants in her community.
Some food and drink-oriented businesses industries are trying to get ahead of government health mandates, as well as meet demands from consumers and health activists for more transparent nutritional information.
On Wednesday, McDonald's said it will post calories for all items on its menu boards and drive-thru menus in the United States.
There are also major soft drink sellers, such as 7-Eleven, that don't have to comply with the New York City ban because it doesn't affect beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores. So those Big Gulps are safe for now.