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“Without a portion cap on sugary drinks, it would be harder to tackle an obesity epidemic that kills more New Yorkers than anything other than smoking and causes misery for many thousands more who suffer from heart disease, diabetes and other debilitating illnesses,” Mr. Farley said. “Sugary drinks are a leading cause of this epidemic.”

The ruling was handed down as an eleventh-hour reprieve for fast-food restaurants, which had been scrambling to comply with the deadline. McDonald’s Corp. and Dunkin’ Donuts told Reuters that instead of sweetening their large coffees, customers would be either handed sugar packets on the side or directed to the self-serve stand.

Mr. Bloomberg, who ran as a Republican before becoming an independent in 2007, has made public health and combating obesity central themes of his administration. The mayor also has championed laws to ban smoking in public, including outdoor parks; limiting the use of trans fats, and requiring restaurant chains to show calorie counts.

“Anytime you adopt a ground-breaking policy, special interests will sue,” said Mr. Bloomberg. “That’s America.”