Remember when former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted a ban on large sugary drinks?
The ban, which prohibited restaurants, delis and other food places from selling sodas and other sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces (here’s looking at you 2-liter bottles of Coke), was controversial, and eventually deemed unconstitutional. Apparently Mayor Bloomberg had taken things a little too far.
But health and government officials weren’t about to let a court decision stand in their way. Last week the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York City Board of Health brought an appeal against the decision, pushing for a “portion cap rule” as a means to fight the escalating problem of obesity.
Bloomberg originally brought the idea of the ban to the city in 2012, proposing the ban as a rule under the city’s Health Code. Despite an objection from several New York City Council members, the measure went through the Board of Health in September of that year.
Restaurants, delis and food outlets were restricted from selling non-diet soft drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy and sports drinks, hot chocolate and sweetened juices larger than 16 ounces, but grocery and convenience stores were not, a discrepancy that lead the court to deem the ban unconstitutional. In other words, if you want to get a Big Gulp at 7-11, the ban wouldn’t stop you from doing so.
“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 at the time of the decision.
While former Mayor Bloomberg ended his 11-year tenure at the end of 2013, Mayor Bill de Blasio has supported the ban since before he took office. “The city’s proposal to cap the size of sugary drinks responds to the alarming obesity and diabetes crisis,” Mayor de Blasio told the Wall Street Journal.
The New York Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides, with several judges noting that the ban could put food regulation on a slipper slope. ”Couldn’t you ban hamburgers altogether from New York City?” Jonthan Lippman, the court’s chief judge, asked, according to the Wall Street Journal.
An official decision on the appeal will likely come later this year.
Photo Credit: Vox Efx