Michael Bloomberg steered New York City through economic recession, a catastrophic hurricane and the aftermath of 9/11, but he may always be remembered, accurately or not, as the mayor who wanted to ban the Big Gulp.
After 12 years, Bloomberg leaves office Dec. 31 with a unique record as a public health crusader who attacked cigarettes, artery-clogging fats and big sugary drinks with as much zeal as most mayors go after crack dens and graffiti.
And while Bloomberg's audacious initiatives weren't uniformly successful, often leading to court challenges and criticisms he was turning New York into a "nanny state," experts say they helped reshape just how far a city government can go to protect people from an unhealthy lifestyle.
"He has been a transformative leader," said Dr. Linda Fried, dean of Columbia University's school of public health. "He has created a model for how to improve a city's health."
Coming into office as a billionaire businessman who made his fortune selling data to Wall Street, Bloomberg was accustomed to using hard, cold research to drive decisions, and it was an approach he used effectively on matters of public health.
Bloomberg pushed to ban smoking in indoor public spaces and prohibit cigarette sales to anyone under 21. He got artificial trans-fat banned from restaurant food — an action that led fast food giants like McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts to change their recipes rather than lose access to the...