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NYC's Sugary Drink Ban Blocked; Appeal Likely

By Andrew Lu on March 11, 2013 3:47 PM

New York City's sugary drink ban has been blocked by a judge just one day before it was supposed to take effect. The city plans to appeal.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a major proponent of the law that sought to prohibit sugary drinks in restaurants, movie theaters, and other establishments, reports Reuters. Bloomberg had hoped the ban would help fight health problems like obesity and diabetes, much like cigarette regulations cut down on smoking more than a decade ago.

A judge, however, found NYC's sugary drink ban to be invalid.

Had the ban gone into effect, the city's food service businesses would have been barred from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. Businesses that violated the law would have faced a $200 fine.

The American Beverage Association and other business groups sued to block the law. They argued that the law overreached and infringed upon consumers' personal liberties, reports Reuters. In addition, soda companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo argued that the ban was inconsistent, as supermarkets would still be able to sell sugary drinks of any size.

In his ruling, Justice Milton Tingling said that the law was arbitrary and capricious, as the ban would affect businesses under the purview of the Board of Health like restaurants, but not other establishments like the supermarkets mentioned above.

In addition, Tingling noted that the law would not apply to drinks that have higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and calories.

When a court reviews the an administrative agency's decision, like the proposed sugary drink ban by NYC's Board of Health, the court will typically use an "arbitrary and capricious" standard. A court will basically leave the law untouched unless there is no reasonable basis to support the law -- which is what Justice Tingling found.

In a statement, New York City's chief lawyer said he was confident the sugary drink ban "will ultimately be upheld" upon appeal. Ironically, to close the loopholes in the law, NYC may propose an even more comprehensive ban that would affect even more businesses and drinks.

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