The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 12, 2013

Judge strikes down NYC ban on supersized sodas



NEW YORK (AP) — A judge struck down New York City's pioneering ban on big sugary drinks Monday just hours before it was supposed to take effect, handing a defeat to health-minded Mayor Michael Bloomberg and creating uncertainty for restaurants that had already ordered smaller cups and changed their menus.

State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling said the 16-ounce limit on sodas and other sweet drinks arbitrarily applies to only some sugary beverages and some places that sell them.

"The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of this rule," Tingling wrote in a 36-page ruling that examined the scope of power that should be afforded an administrative board for regulations. The ruling was seen as a victory for the beverage industry, restaurants and other business groups that called the rule unfair and wrong-headed.

In addition, the judge said the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health intruded on the City Council's authority when it imposed the rule, citing in part a case from the 1980s which questioned whether a state public health council had the authority to regulate smoking in public places.

The city vowed to appeal the decision, issued by New York state's trial-level court.

"We believe the judge is totally in error in how he interpreted the law, and we are confident we will win on appeal," Bloomberg said, adding that the city would emphasize to higher courts "that people are dying every day. This is not a joke."

For now, though, the ruling means the ax won't fall Tuesday on supersized sodas, sweetened teas and other high-sugar beverages in restaurants, movie theaters, corner delis and sports arenas.

"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," the American Beverage Association and other opponents said.

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