NYC “Soda Ban” Rejected by State High Court
Numerous public health initiatives have been implemented throughout the US in recent years aimed at potentially reducing the prevalence of obesity. Most have focused on either promoting increased physical activity levels or educating the general population on how to make better nutritional choices. A well-known example implemented at the state level was the recent attempt to ban the selling of oversized sugary beverages by restaurants and businesses in New York City - aptly recognized as the “soda-ban”. According to new updates, New Yorkers can now sip their super-sized sodas without concern if they choose. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to limit the sale of large sugary drinks was recently rejected by the state's highest court, which ruled the local health board overstepped its authority in approving the regulation. "By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council," wrote Judge Eugene Pigott. The law, first rejected in March of 2013, would have barred restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses from selling sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces (473 ml). Most of the beverages under legal attack contain around 40 g of sugar per 12 ounces.
The recent decision ended the city's final appeal, which was taken up by Bloomberg's successor, Bill de Blasio. The soda ban still remains closely associated with Bloomberg, whose broad effort to combat public health problems through regulation included banning cigarettes from parks/bars and trans fats from restaurants. The ban quickly drew national attention, with critics vilifying Bloomberg's "nanny state" and public health advocates praising the attempt to fight obesity. In a statement, de Blasio said he was disappointed and that officials have a "responsibility to address the causes of this epidemic." Conversely, spokesmen from the American Beverage Association said the law "would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice." Business owners and managers were also quoted as supporting the court’s decision because they feel that people should be able to drink whatever they want.
The court, which ultimately rejected the ban, focused on its legal loopholes; which exempted businesses not subject to the health board's authority and didn’t address all large beverages with relatively high sugar content (e.g., gallon of milk). Due to these inconsistencies, a number of convenience stores which sell 64-ounce sugary drinks were unaffected. Likewise, high-calorie coffee drinks remained exempt from the ban. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Susan Read said the health board acted properly and any challenge belonged in the political arena, not the courts. "What petitioners have truly asked the courts to do is to strike down an unpopular regulation, not an illegal one," she wrote. "But if that is so, eliminating, limiting, or preventing it via political means should present little obstacle."