March 11, 2013

Judge blocks NYC's ban on big sugary drinks

The judge's ruling comes one day before the law was set to take effect. He says the rules were “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Associated Press

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In this March 8, 2013 file photo, a Coca-Cola poster about the city's anticipated beverage ban is displayed at a pizza shop at New York's Penn Station. New York City's groundbreaking limit on the size of sugar-laden drinks has been struck down by a judge shortly before it was set to take effect. The restriction was supposed to start Tuesday, March 12, 2013. The rule prohibits selling non-diet soda and some other sugary beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces. It applies at places ranging from pizzerias to sports stadiums, though not at supermarkets or convenience stores. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The rule, if upheld, would create an "administrative leviathan," warned Tingling, who was elected to the Supreme Court bench in 2001 as a Democrat.

The health board has considerable regulatory power, but its limits will likely be a central question in the appeal.

"I think it turns on whether the appellate division feels that the mayor has gone too far in ruling by decree in bypassing City Council," said Rick Hills, a New York University law professor who has been following the case.

In defending the rule, city officials point to the city's rising obesity rate — about 24 percent of adults, up from 18 percent in 2002 — and to studies tying sugary drinks to weight gain.

Critics said the measure is too limited to have a meaningful effect on New Yorkers' waistlines. And they said it would take a bite out of business for the establishments that had to comply, while other places would still be free to sell sugary drinks in 2-liter bottles and supersized cups.

The city had said that while restaurant inspectors would start enforcing the soda size rule in March, they wouldn't seek fines — $200 for a violation — until June.

The ruling "serves as a major blow to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's incessant finger-wagging," said J. Justin Wilson at the Center for Consumer Freedom, created by restaurants and food companies. "New Yorkers should celebrate this victory by taking a big gulp of freedom."

Jose Perez, a fifth-grade special education teacher in Manhattan who was getting a hot dog and can of soda from a street vendor, called the ruling "dead-on."

"Really, I think it's just big government getting in the way of people's rights," he said. "I think it's up to the person. If they want to have a giant soda, that's their business."

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