Judge Invalidates 'Capricious' NYC Sugary Drink Ban

Large soda ban
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How sweet it is -- for sugar-lovers anyway.

A judge on Monday invalidated New York City's plan to ban large sugary drinks from restaurants, movie theaters and other establishments, one day before the new law was to take effect.

State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan ruled the new regulation was "arbitrary and capricious" and declared it invalid, after the American Beverage Association and other business groups had sued the city challenging the ban.

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Bottom line, Tingling ruled, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city's Board of Health did not have the authority to issue the soda ban.

At a press conference Monday evening, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decried the judge's ruling and vowed to appeal. Unlike most states, the New York Supreme Court is a trial court, and two appeals courts are above it.

Touting New York public health policies from the last decade -- banning smoking in the work place to banning trans fats and to posting letter grades in restaurants -- Bloomberg emphasized that the large sugary beverage rule is about saving lives.

"But as far as we have come, there is one public health crisis that has grown worse and worse over the years, and that is obesity," he said. "Five thousand people will die of obesity this year in New York. The best science tells us that sugary drinks are a cause of obesity."

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After the judge's ruling, Bloomberg went to Twitter to respond:

"We believe @nycHealthy [NYC Health Dept.] as the legal authority and responsibility to tackle causes of the obesity epidemic, which kills 5,000 NYers a year."

Bloomberg also said the city plans to appeal the decision as soon as possible. "We are confident the measure will ultimately be upheld," he wrote.

The American Beverage Association released this statement following the ruling:

"The court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban. 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."

The ban would have prohibited the city's food-service businesses from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces, though city officials had said they would not begin imposing $200 fines on offending businesses until June.

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Bloomberg has made improving the health of New Yorkers part of his legacy. The soda ban had followed similar crackdowns on fat, sugar and salt and a smoking ban that has been replicated around the world.

In anticipation of the soda ban, Bloomberg on Monday released new data tying sugary drinks to the city's fattest neighborhoods. The new city study showed nine of the neighborhoods with the 10 highest obesity rates were also the highest in sugary drink consumption. At the other end, the three least obese neighborhoods were also the lowest in sugary drink consumption.

Companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonald's had argued that the ban was inconsistent in its application, since it would still permit grocery and convenience stores to sell the drinks in any size.

— Reuters contributed to this report