In the Big Apple, the Big Gulp is now — without question — legally good to go.
The New York State Court of Appeals upheld a decision Thursday striking down former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notorious “soda ban” ruling, saying that the policy was beyond the scope of the city Board of Health’s regulatory powers.
On September 13, 2012, Mr. Bloomberg’s city government passed what is officially called the “Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule” amid criticism from New Yorkers and the beverage industry — and significant mockery from late-night comics. It sought to prohibit food service establishments from selling sugary drinks in sizes of more than 16 fluid ounces. The rule did not apply to supermarkets or convenience stores.
Mr. Bloomberg heralded it at the time as “the biggest step a city has taken to curb obesity,” but it was never implemented after being declared invalid by two lower courts.
With the soda ban’s future officially decided by a 4-2 vote from New York’s highest court, the winners joined together for Big Gulps, and the losers lamented what they said was a major setback for the anti-obesity public health campaign.
In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supported the cap rule, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the court’s ruling.
“We cannot turn our backs on the high rates of obesity and diabetes that adversely impact the lives of so many of our residents,” said the Democratic mayor. “While we are still examining the court’s decision, it is our responsibility to address the causes of this epidemic, and the city is actively reviewing all of its options to protect the health and well-being of our communities.”
While Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam said “no one should read today’s decision too broadly,” calling it a “separation of powers” issue, another judge did not agree. Judge Susan P. Read said the cap rule fit into the powers given to the Board of Health for the past 150 years.
“What petitioners have truly asked the courts to do is to strike down an unpopular regulation, not an illegal one,” she said.
Indeed, the cap rule was far from popular among citizens, with 63 percent of American adults opposed, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey in May.
Big-portion soda drinkers took to Twitter Thursday to rejoice in the ruling.
Christina Warren tweeted: “Bloomberg, I love you, but I’m going to celebrate the death of the large soda ban with a huge soda.”
Similarly, with a picture of a Big Gulp, William Tyson tweeted: “Dear Mayor Bloomberg, I enjoyed every drop! Signed, An American citizen!”
The other party praising the decision was the soda industry, which fought the rule since its passing in 2012. The American Beverage Association said in a statement that the ruling “would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”