New York City's ban on sugary drinks served in containers exceeding 16 ounces was set to go into effect this week. Instead of celebrating, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been defending the ban following a State Supreme Court Justice striking it down on Monday.
Justice Milton Tingling agreed with the petitioners, including the American Beverage Association and the National Restaurant Association, that the Board of Health had exceeded its authority. He wrote that the City Charter doesn't grant the Board of Health "the sweeping and unbridled authority to define, create, authorize, mandate and enforce" the portion cap. He also found that the loopholes in the rule — such as no limit on the number of refills a customer may purchase — defeated the rule's stated purpose and determined that the rule was arbitrary by excluding some food establishments.
Bloomberg defended the portion cap at a press conference on Monday. "Being the first to do something is never easy," he said. "When we began this process, we knew we would face lawsuits. Anytime you adopt a groundbreaking policy, special interests will sue." He cited the other controversial health policies the city has adopted in the past decade, including requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts, banning trans fats, and prohibiting smoking in parks and at beaches. The mayor's office also released new data from the New York City Community Health Survey looking at the relationship between sugary beverages and obesity.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg, along with Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and other advocates visited a restaurant voluntarily limiting the size of sugary drinks it serves. According to a CBS New York story, some businesses were waiting to make changes until after the ruling, especially since the city had said it wouldn't begin imposing $200 fines on violators until June. Bloomberg said that he expects the ban eventually to go into effect.