Bloomberg loses first battle, but soda war is on

NYC's ban on big, sugary drinks was supposed to take effect this week.  Restaurant inspectors even had new 17 ounce cups issued to them, to enforce the soda size limit.  But shortly before the ban started, a judge barred it from becoming law.  Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling ruled the ban "arbitrary and capricious," because it applies only to some sweet beverages, and only in some places that sell them.

In his decision, Tingling wrote, "The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of this rule."

When the NYC Board of Health approved the ban last September, the New York Times explained the law's loopholes:

"Only establishments that receive inspection grades from the health department, including movie theaters and stadium concession stands, will be subject to the rules. Convenience stores, including 7-Eleven and its king-size Big Gulp drinks, would be exempt, along with vending machines and some newsstands.

The restrictions would not affect fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; no-calorie diet sodas would not be affected, but establishments with self-service drink fountains, like many fast-food restaurants, would not be allowed to stock cups larger than 16 ounces."

Judge Tingling also ruled that the Board of Health overstepped its authority in approving the size limit, and violated "the separation of powers doctrine."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not giving up without a fight.  Michael Cardozo, corporation counsel of the city's law department told the Associated Press, "We are moving forward immediately with our appeal."  He said, "We believe the judge was wrong in rejecting this important public health initiative. We also feel he took an unduly narrow view of the Board of Health's powers."

Supporters of the ban want to see it enacted.  Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, told nbcnews.com, "There is really very clear evidence now that soft drinks are related to weight gain and obesity and, most certainly, diabetes."

But opponent have been cheering the judge's ruling against the so-called nanny state.

Mississippi is taking the backlash a step further, with an "anti-Bloomberg" bill.  It would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids' meals. NPR reports that in a state where one in three adults is obese, the bill garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the state legislature.

When asked about the Mississippi bill, Bloomberg told CBS News, ""How can somebody try to pass a law that deliberately says we can't improve the lives of our citizens? It's farce."   He added, "Ask anybody, would they roll back the smoking ban? Would they roll back getting lead paint out of classrooms? I don't think any of these things would get rolled back."

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One Comment

  1. It's all tied up with our history, and there may be no way of ridding ourselves, but Americans have too much of that "nobody's gonna tell me what to do with my (fill in the blank). I don't know if any other nation suffers from such righteous stupidity the way we do, and I wonder if others tolerate such blatant corporate crassness in the name of "free enterprise".