NYC's Sugary Drink Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New York City's ban on supersized sugary drinks, which barred large sodas from restaurants, fast food joints, and movie theaters, was struck down as unconstitutional by a state appellate court on Tuesday.

The ban on sugary drinks of more than 16 ounces was pressed by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had supported it in an attempt to curb obesity, reports USA Today.

Failure of this regulation may mean a tough road for any future bans on food or drink to promote health.

Ban Already in Effect

The ban on oversized and oversugared drinks in NYC has been in place for more than a year now, with only grocery and convenience stores allowed to sell sugary soft drinks over 16 ounces.

This did not stop soda-industry lobbyists, including the American Beverage Association, from successfully suing to block the ban in state court.

That decision, issued in March, was upheld on appeal Tuesday, with the appellate court arguing that the ban violated the separation of powers doctrine.

Separation of Powers

Opponents of the ban argued that the New York City Board of Health overreached in its official capacity by limiting sugary drinks to 16 ounces.

The Board of Health has wide discretion to issue regulations to promote the general health concerns of NYC citizens. But the court felt the big sugary drink ban was too much like making a law -- a function reserved for the legislature --which made the ban unconstitutional.

Their decision also cited the concerns of Judge Milton Tingling who initially blocked the ban, stating that "[t]he loopholes in this rule effectively defeat [its] stated purpose," reports The Associated Press.

Sugary Drinks in the Future

Nothing in the appellate court's Tuesday ruling would prevent the legislative bodies in NYC and New York State from attempting to pass their own versions of this sugary drink law, perhaps taking a page from California's ban on trans fats.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg's administration has made it clear that this decision is only a "temporary setback" which they plan to appeal, the AP reports.

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