Politics & Policy

New York Soda Ban Loses Again

Court of appeals rules Big Apple residents can buy big sugary beverages.

New York’s appeals court struck down New York City’s ban on the sale of sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces.

The state’s Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Board of Health appointed by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg exceeded the bounds of its regulatory authority in passing the law on March 12, 2013.

The four-to-two decision disappointed city officials who had hoped the court would reinstate the ban after two lower courts had already ruled against it, according to the New York Times.

The city stayed silent on whether it plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. An appeal is unlikely since the case concerns local government authority and legislation rather than federal issues, the Post reported.

Bloomberg promoted the proposal as a way to control health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. The restriction would have applied to restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums, and street carts, hitting big companies like Coca-Cola Co.

Restaurants, theater owners, and beverage companies sued, arguing that an appointed board, as opposed to legislative bodies, lacked the authority to impose the ban.

In her dissent, Judge Susan P. Read said the ruling overlooked precedent granting the Board of Health large scope to address public-health issues, such as prohibiting the use of lead paint in homes.

The ruling thwarts public-health advocates and the city’s Board of Health in their efforts to enact measures limiting the consumption of high-calorie drinks known to contribute to obesity.

The ban’s applicability had been questioned since its initial proposal. The restrictions were inconsistent, affecting establishments such as fast-food franchises while leaving convenience stores like 7-Eleven exempt. And though New Yorkers couldn’t purchase huge sports drinks for workouts, equally huge milkshakes and fruit juices remained fair game.

The American Beverage Association, the industry’s trade group, said in a statement that it approved the ruling and that the proposal “would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”

— Celina Durgin is a Franklin Center intern at National Review Online.

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