Appeals Court Kills New York City's Big-Soda Ban

In a major victory for the soft-drink industry, New York City's controversial, so-called "big soda ban" is officially dead.

By a 4-to-2 vote, the New York State Court of Appeals upheld two lower courts that ruled that the city's Board of Health had overreached its authority in passing a regulation that would have banned sales of soda and many other sugar-added drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces in many restaurants and public venues. 

The Board of Health passed the regulation in September 2012, but groups including the American Beverage Association and restaurant and movie theatre industry groups sued within a month. In March 2013, a court enjoined the city from implementing the law. 

The state's highest court agreed with the plaintiffs and lower courts that such lawmaking rightfully falls under the jurisdiction of the New York City Council. 

The opinion, written by Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr.,  also said that the regulation was "arbitrary and capricious" because it included some beverages with sugar (sodas, teas, sports drinks) but not others (fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, milkshakes) and applied to fast-food restaurants, food carts, delis, movie theaters and stadiums and arenas, but not to grocers and convenience stores. 

The regulation, intended to reduce consumption of sugary drinks, had been supported by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as one means of addressing the obesity epidemic.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association said that it is "pleased" with the ruling, saying the regulation would have "created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers' freedom of choice." ABA added: " With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on New Yorkers and families across the country.”

"Large Cup of Soda" photo from Shutterstock.

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