New York City appeals ‘soda ban’ ruling

NEW YORK—City officials are asking an appeals court judge to reinstate a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks, arguing it is crucial to stopping a “serious health crisis” linked to obesity.

The ban, championed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was struck down March 11—less than 24 hours before it was set to take effect—by state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, who argued that the new regulation was undermined by loopholes. Tingling noted, among other things, an exemption that would have allowed state-regulated stores like 7-11 to continue selling large sodas.

Tingling also argued that Bloomberg and the city’s Board of Health had overstepped their authority by not first putting the ban to a vote in the New York City Council.

But Michael Cardozo, an attorney for the Bloomberg administration, rejected those points in the appeal the city filed Monday. Echoing arguments that have been made by Bloomberg in recent weeks, Cardozo said the Health department has a long track record of implementing “substantive rules and standards” aimed at protecting the health of city residents. Among other things, he cited a city requirement that fast food restaurants post the calorie counts of their menu items as well as municipal restrictions on the use of lead paint.

Under the law, the so-called "soda ban" would have limited the sale of sugary drinks to just 16 ounces per serving at establishments regulated by the city, including bars, restaurants, bodegas and movie theaters. But there were several exceptions to the rule, including sweetened drinks that were more than 50 percent milk. Ahead of the ban’s implementation, Starbucks said it would not comply amid confusion about how the law would be enforced.

Responding to Tingling’s criticism that the ban was riddled with loopholes, Cardozo argued in the appeal that the law is less about a sweeping ban and more about trying to encourage residents to make better choices about their diet—another point that has been emphasized by Bloomberg in recent weeks.

"The rule is designed to make consumption of large amounts of sugary drinks a conscious and informed choice by the consumer," the city’s appeal read. "Thus, although a consumer is free to consume more than 16 ounces by ordering a second drink, getting a refill, or going to another store, he or she will be making an informed choice."