New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on the sale of large servings of soft drinks in the city's restaurants, delis and movie theatres in a move that some city officials will help push governments around the U.S. to adopt similar rules.

The proposal would impose a 16-ounce (475-ml) limit on sugary drinks sold at restaurants, movie theatres, sports venues and street carts. Bottled as well as fountain drinks would be included in the ban.

The ban would not apply to diet soda, fruit juices, or any drink that is at least half milk or milk substitute.

But some of those loopholes are already drawing criticism. For example, some high-calorie drinks like Starbucks Frappucinos, wouldn't be affected because of their high dairy content.

Nor would Slurpees sold at 7-Eleven also be affected because the stores are regulated as grocery stores and the ban would not apply to drinks sold in stores that primarily sell foods meant to be taken home.

And while restaurants would be allowed to hand out cup sizes bigger than 16 ounces, free refills and additional drink purchases would still be allowed.

The proposal still requires the approval of the city's Board of Health. But since all its members were appointed by Bloomberg, its passage seems assured.

The ban could come into effect as early as March and any businesses that violate the rules could face fines of US$200.

The City Hall officials who support the ban argue that sugary drinks are the largest contributor to rising calorie consumption and obesity. They point to studies that suggest that sweet drinks are linked to long-term weight gain and increased rates of diabetes and heart disease.

The average fast-food soft drink is now about seven times as large as it was in the 1950s.

Coca-Cola Co. was quick with its condemnation of the proposal.

"New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this," the company said in a statement. "They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate."

But The Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded the proposed ban, calling it "the boldest effort yet to prevent obesity" and called on other cities to follow suit.

This isn't the first time that Bloomberg has attempted to legislate better health among New Yorkers, more than half of whom are obese or overweight.

He has outlawed trans-fats in french fries and other restaurant food and forced chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus.

The mayor has also led efforts to ban smoking in the city's bars, restaurants, parks and beaches.

Bloomberg supported a measure to bring in a state tax on soft drinks, but the bill died at the state legislature.