The American Beverage Association 1, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg 0.
Well, maybe not.
On Monday, New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling issued a permanent injunction barring the city from enacting a ban – that would have taken effect today – on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, sports arenas and movie theaters. The move by the New York City health department, approved in September 2012 and supported by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was the first such move in the nation.
One of the plaintiffs, the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association, argued the ban would have cost New York bottlers, distributors and businesses thousands of dollars to comply with relabeling and restocking. In his decision, Tingling cited loopholes – such as allowable drink refills in regular-sized cups in restaurants – that defeated the rule’s core purpose.
“It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories,” he wrote.
Bloomberg said the city plans to appeal the decision. The injunction, however, may not be a loss for the mayor. Bloomberg has focused national attention on a a growing health concern: the relationship between excess consumption of sugary drinks – and sugar in general – as well as excessive fat and sodium. Last September, I blogged in support of the mayor’s attempt to curb the growing obesity problem, and I feel the same today.
Excess sugar in sodas – and many sugary drinks and snack foods – provide “empty” calories. A 16-ounce bottle of soda can pack 55 grams of sugar – or about 22 sugar cubes; a can of soda, around 16 sugar cubes. So in this context, all calories are not necessarily created equal.
Research shows that almost two in three adults are overweight or obese, and some health experts predict that half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030. There’s a public health cost to a growing obesity issue, and those celebrating today should probably temper their celebrations with a dose of reality.
“It wasn’t a setback for me,” Bloomberg said in a news conference. “It was a setback for the people who are dying."
I couldn’t agree more.