- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - Eateries from corner delis to movie concession stands have gotten a last-minute reprieve from the nation’s first ban on big sugary drinks. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg is urging them to shrink their cups and bottles anyway.

After a judge struck down the 16-ounce size limit for sodas and some other sweet drinks as arbitrary and outside city health regulators’ purview, Bloomberg defended it Tuesday as a groundbreaking anti-obesity effort that would prevail on appeal and is already beginning to change attitudes and actual practices.

“Despite yesterday’s temporary setback, I don’t think there’s any doubt that momentum is moving in our direction,” Bloomberg said during a visit to a Manhattan diner that is now voluntarily complying with the policy, ditching 20-ounce bottles of soda and reserving 24-ounce to-go cups for iced coffee.

“We are confident that we will win that (appeal), but while the legal case plays out, the conversation we started about the dangers of the portion sizes of sugary drinks has prompted many people … to take action,” he said.

A few hours later, the city filed formal notice of its plan to appeal. The American Beverage Association and other business groups that sued the city said they felt the judge’s decision was strong and were “confident in the ruling,”

The city’s response was a sign of how aggressively Bloomberg, an independent, sees the city’s role in pushing New Yorkers to improve their health habits and nudging other cities to do likewise. But it remains to be seen whether the city that was first to compel chain restaurants to post calorie counts and bar artificial trans fats in restaurant food will ultimately prevail in capping soda portions.

For now, though, the ruling means the ax didn’t fall Tuesday on supersized sodas, sweetened teas and other high-sugar beverages in restaurants, hot dog carts, arenas and even coffee shops.

The rule has sparked reaction from pizzeria counters to late-night talk shows, celebrated by some as a bold attempt to improve people’s health and derided by others as another “nanny state” law from Bloomberg during his 11 years in office.

On the “Late Show with David Letterman” Monday night, Bloomberg defended the ban, but he also joked about his own “addiction.”

“As long as you don’t ban Cheez-Its,” he said. “Cheez-Its are OK. That’s my addiction.”

Jose Perez, a special education teacher, said Monday as he got a can of soda and a hot dog from a street vendor, “Really, I think it’s just big government getting in the way of people’s rights.

“I think it’s up to the person,” he said. “If they want to have a giant soda, that’s their business.”

Monday’s ruling came just hours before the restriction was to take effect, handing a victory to the beverage industry, restaurants and other business groups that called the rule unfair and wrong-headed.

“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.

State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling said the restriction was arbitrary because it applies to only some sugary beverages and some places that sell them. It doesn’t cover alcoholic drinks or many lattes and other milk-based concoctions. Nor does it doesn’t apply at supermarkets or many convenience stores _ including 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp.

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