NEW YORK—The administration will have one final chance to get its sugary drink ban into law. On Thursday, the state’s highest appeals court agreed to hear the case, although it will not see a courtroom until next year, leaving the next administration to continue the fight.
The controversial law, which was to go into effect on March 12, 2013, would have prohibited most businesses from selling sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. The ban would not affect grocery or convenience stores that do not sell prepared food.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ordered his Board of Health to issue the mandate instead of waiting for the City Council to pass a bill, said the measure would curb obesity.
“Obesity is the only major public health issue we face that is getting worse, and sugary drinks are a major driver of the crisis,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
“The related epidemics of obesity and diabetes are killing at least 5,000 New Yorkers a year, and striking hardest in black and Latino communities, and low-income neighborhoods.”
On the day before the ban was to become a law, a judge ruled the Department of Health overstepped its reach and deemed the ban unconstitutional. The city appealed the ruling, but lost in late July, leaving the state appeals court as the final option.
If the city loses the case, it will have no other legal avenues with this argument. If the city wins, it will set a legal precedent for health departments all over New York State to issue similar mandates.
“New York City’s portion cap rule would help save lives, and we are confident the Appeals court will uphold the Board of Health’s rule.”
Lawyers for both sides will submit briefs over the next several months before making their argument in front of a judge.
While no court date has been officially set, a spokesperson for the Corporation Council, the city’s law office, said the case would likely not be heard until after the first of the year, leaving the next administration to pick up the case.
Future Mayor’s View
Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio has supported the ban on large sugary drinks. When asked if he would direct the city to continue fighting the appeal, a spokesman for de Blasio said, “As mayor he would review the status of the city’s litigation.”
Republican nominee Joe Lhota has been an opponent of the ban.
“I believe the City of New York should educate people about why sugared soda is bad for you and people should make their own mind up. Government shouldn’t tell us what to do,” Lhota said in an early September primary debate.
“Government should educate us and then we make up our own mind.”