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New York City's Large Soda Ban Is Dead

State Court of Appeals upholds lower court's ruling

An attempt to revive New York City's ban on sodas exceeding 16 ounces was struck down by the New York State Court of Appeals today, upholding the rulings of two lower courts by a 4-to-2 vote.

In a 20-page decision, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. wrote that the New York City Board of Health "exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority," reports Michael M. Grynbaum in The New York Times.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg originally proposed the large soda ban in May 2012 as part of his larger public health campaign. The controversial rule was met by harsh backlash from the American Beverage Association, which sued a month later, claiming the decision interfered with individuals' freedom to make their own decisions.

In March 2013, one day before the rule was to take effect, "New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling issued an order permanently blocking it," claiming it was "'arbitrary and capricious' because it excludes certain businesses, such as convenience stores, that are regulated by the state and doesn’t apply to other beverages with high concentrations of sugar and calories, like fruit juices," writes Chris Dolmetsch for Bloomberg.com.

The latest decision is seen as a major defeat for public health advocates amid a growing obesity epidemic and raises questions about the power of the New York City's Board of Health. The American Beverage Association, naturally, expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying in a statement that the ban "would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice."

In a dissenting opinion that The New York Times characterized as a "blistering," Judge Susan P. Read argued that the majority ruling "misapprehends, mischaracterizes and thereby curtails the powers of the New York City Board of Health to address the public health threats of the early 21st century." Read cited "decades of precedent in which the Board of Health was given broad purview to address public health matters, such as regulating the city’s water supply and banning the use of lead paint in homes."

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who sided with the majority on the decision, "seemed to share those concerns," writes The New York Times. She cautions that "no one should read today’s decision too broadly."

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