NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed yesterday to appeal a judge’s ruling that struck down his pioneering ban on large sugary drinks sold by the city’s restaurants, movie theatres and other food service businesses just a day before it was to take effect.
The judge called the ban “arbitrary and capricious” in an 11th-hour decision that dealt a serious blow to Bloomberg, who has made public health a cornerstone of his administration, with laws prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars and parks; banning trans fats; and requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts.
At a press conference, Bloomberg said the judge’s ruling was “totally in error” and promised to keep pressing his effort to combat a growing obesity epidemic linked to heart disease and diabetes. He has successfully fought off past court challenges to the smoking ban and the calorie count rule.
“Anytime you adopt a ground-breaking policy, special interests will sue,” Bloomberg said. “That’s America.”
It is unclear whether the case will be resolved by the time Bloomberg’s term expires at the end of this year.
Beverage manufacturers, restaurants and other business groups had called the so-called “soda ban” an illegal overreach that would infringe upon consumers’ personal liberty.
The regulation would have prohibited the city’s food-service establishments from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (473 ml) starting today, though city officials had said they would not begin imposing $200 fines on offending businesses until June.
“People are dying every day,” Bloomberg said. “This is not a joke. This is about real lives.”
But the ban only applied to businesses under the auspices of the health department, since it was the mayor-appointed health board, and not the city council, that approved the policy last fall. That meant that grocery and convenience stores – including 7 Eleven and its 64-ounce Big Gulp – were exempt from the regulation’s reach. (Reuters)