New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling has invalidated Mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal to ban sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces in certain venues, calling it "arbitrary and capricious." The ban was set to take effect today.
The ban was originally proposed in the fall and was subsequently approved by the New York City Board of Health. It would have prohibited restaurants, delis, stadiums and arenas, concession stands and food carts from selling sugar-sweetened beverages in containers above 16 ounces. Banned beverages would have included soda, sweetened iced tea, some smoothies, coffee drinks and lemonade.
Bloomberg's objective is to curb obesity, which he called a national epidemic that is creating a public health crisis. "We just can't let that happen," he tweeted.
Numerous organizations have applauded Tingling's decision. The National Restaurant Association joined the American Beverage Association and others in filing the lawsuit challenging the ban last fall, saying it was arbitrary and subjected restaurateurs to a standard that many of its competitors, including groceries and c-stores, didn't have to meet.
"This is a great victory, particularly for thousands of restaurant operators and industry suppliers serving New York City who would have experienced financial hardships had the ban been enacted," said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the NRA. "We are extremely pleased that the judge recognized that the Board of Health exceeded its authority when it initially passed the ban."
International Franchise Association Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Public Policy Judith Thorman also released the following statement about the decision:
"We applaud the court's decision to prevent Mayor Bloomberg's unnecessary and ineffective proposal from being enacted and enforced. The proposal was an example of government overreach that unfairly targeted restaurant franchises and would have done little to combat obesity, while placing excessive and arbitrary costs on franchisees throughout New York City. Small business franchise restaurant owners provide many job opportunities for the city's residents and franchise businesses support more than 784,000 jobs and $46 billion in economic output in New York State."
Horace Cooper, a legal commentator and an adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research argues that this is likely a "death blow for the sugary drink rule in New York City."
"Judge Tingling's ruling makes it clear that Mayor Bloomberg overstepped his authority and should have either left this issue to the state legislature or the New York City Council," Cooper said. "Publicity stunts do not make for good law. Promoting healthy diets is one thing — going well beyond that by mandating that adult consumers face limits to legal products and fining restaurants is dangerous to consumers and retailers. Using a stacked board of hand-picked political cronies to carry it out is illegal."
In a statement immediately following the ruling, Jeff Stier, director of the Risk Analysis Division of the National Center for Public Policy Research and a New York City resident, said, "Common sense has just gained a foothold in New York City. Obesity is a real problem, but a random ban like the Mayor's, which was widely ridiculed not only by late-night comedy shows, but by a New York judge, is not a serious way to address a serious issue."
Bloomberg ready for a fight
After Monday's ruling, Bloomberg's office tweeted that the city will appeal the decision. He has since remained remained defiant via Twitter with posts such as:
"The best science tells us that sugary drinks are a leading cause of obesity. We have a responsibility to do something."
"As far as we've come, one public health crisis has grown worse over the years: #obesity."
"When we implemented calorie counts & eliminated trans-fats, we were taken to court. Today both reforms are models."
"Already our proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages has changed the national conversation around #obesity."
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