Appeals Court Rules NYC Soda Ban Is Unconstitutional
NEW YORK –- A state appeals court rejected the proposed New York City law that would ban restaurants and certain other eateries from selling sodas and other sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces, Reuters reported. The law, initiated by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "violated the state principle of separation of powers," the First Department of the State Supreme Court's Appellate Division stated.
This decision upholds the ruling of a lower court that halted the law. On March 12, Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling agreed with beverage industry representatives and other opponents that the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health had overstepped its authority to regulate public health by taking on a legislative policy-making role.
The four-judge panel at the state appeals court agreed unanimously against the soda ban. The court additionally focused on the law's loopholes, which excluded businesses not under the auspices of the city health department along with certain beverages such as milk-based drinks. This resulted in grocery and convenience stores being exempted from the ban while restaurants, movie theaters and other retailers would have to comply.
"The exceptions did not...reflect the agency's charge to protect public health, but instead reflected the agency's own policy decisions regarding balancing the relative importance of protecting public health with ensuring the economic viability of certain industries," Justice Dianne Renwick wrote for the state appeals court.
However, the court noted that it was not expressing an opinion on regulations restricting the sale of large sugary beverages, "provided that they are enacted by the government body with the authority to do so."
In a statement, Bloomberg labeled the latest ruling a "temporary setback" and promised to appeal to New York's highest court, the State Court of Appeals. The case will end if that court declines to hear it, according to Reuters.
The mayor also argued that more than 2,000 New Yorkers have died from diabetes since March 12.
Other interest groups praised the court's decision today. "With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City," said a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, the lead plaintiff that challenged the law.
The proposed soda ban isn't the only way the New York City Health Department is fighting sugary beverages. In June, the department launched a campaign featuring television advertisements and subway placards that alert consumers that seemingly healthier drinks like sports drinks, teas and energy drinks can cause obesity and diabetes.
"Non-soda sugary drinks have been marketed as being healthier, with references to fruit and antioxidants, vitamins and energy," said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. "We're trying to warn them that these drinks can have as much or more sugar and calories as soda because we still have a major epidemic of obesity."
The American Beverage Association accused the New York City Health Department of "oversimplifying" the causes of obesity. "Selectively picking out common grocery items like sugar-sweetened beverages as a cause of obesity is misleading," said spokesman Chris Gindlesperger. "The public does not believe that solutions to obesity are as simplistic as a ban on the size of just one item that people consume, nor should they."