Judge Revokes Bloomberg’s Ban on Extra-Large Sugary Drinks

March 12, 2013
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sugar drinks“Arbitrary and capricious,” the judge called it. Last year we pointed out that the mayor also has the science wrong.

Last June, in an attempt to combat the obesity epidemic, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the city’s Board of Health to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than sixteen ounces by movie theaters, restaurants, mobile food carts, and delis—though not grocery stores or convenience stores, so 7-Eleven’s Super Big Gulps (40 ounces) and Double Gulps (50 ounces) would be safe! The ban specifically exempted diet drinks, which suggested that he felt diet drinks are much healthier alternatives to the ones filled with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

On Monday, one day before the ban was to take effect, a state Supreme Court justice, Milton A. Tingling, Jr., struck down the plan in a harshly worded opinion. He said the ban’s broad exemptions, which included fruit-based drinks, dairy-based drinks, and alcoholic beverages, made it unenforceable and unworkable (the rules would create “uneven enforcement, even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole”). Besides, it was just the oversized containers that were banned—one could just as easily buy two sixteen-ounce cups instead of one thirty-two ounce cup.

Judge Tingle also stated that the Board of Health overreached by instating the ban—any such authority actually rests with the City Council. We should note that the ruling doesn’t address whether the ban was legal or not—just the fact that it was unworkable and unfair; this might have an impact on similar proposals put forward in Los Angeles and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mayor Bloomberg said he would appeal the decision.

Aside from the paternalistic nature of the ban, our greatest concern was that it failed to look at just how dangerous diet drinks can be. As we noted last year when the ban was first proposed, Aspartame and Neotame (Equal and NutraSweet), which are used in more than 6,000 diet products, beverages, and pharmaceuticals, have carcinogenic effects at a dose level within the range of human daily intake—effects that are magnified when exposure begins during fetal life. Aspartame can cause grand mal seizures in people (and animals) not otherwise susceptible to them. And diet sodas in general are linked to a 61% increase in strokes and heart attacks, according to the American Stroke Association. (And now the dairy industry is trying to hide aspartame in the milk our kids drink as part of the school lunch program!)

Of course, sodas containing HFCS are dangerous too. Recent brain imaging tests show that fructose can trigger changes in the brain that may lead to overeating—leading directly to obesity and related health problems.

The beverage industry launched a multimillion dollar campaign to oppose the ban, but even if the ban had gone into effect, soda peddlers were planning to work the loopholes. Retailers were planning to allow customers to simply add their own sugar and sweeteners. Starbucks was planning to ignore the ban altogether.

Rather than government-enforced bans (or, at the other end of the spectrum, government subsidies on sugar or corn for HFCS!), consumers should be educated about how sodas, whether sugary or artificially sweetened, affect their health. People need to be empowered to make their own decisions about what they eat and drink and how they treat their bodies.

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9 Responses to “Judge Revokes Bloomberg’s Ban on Extra-Large Sugary Drinks”

  1. sofir says:

    What about artificial colors and flavors? They have been proven to cause behavior problems in kids.

    The Feingold.org website has tons of research citations. This is an organization for parents to get info about various foods. We can get a book each year with specific brand names of foods which do not contain any artificial colors or flavors. This is because sometimes the label is misleading. An item which you think is all natural may not be.

    I think you’re doing a great job at ANH! This is one more issue to be aware of.

       0 likes

  2. M kamachi says:

    Maybe they should of focused not on the health ramifications, but on the cost of clean up! It disgusting to walk, or through spilled gallons of soft drinks, to touch something that has that slopped on it. How much does it cost to clean up after all of those big gulps?

       0 likes

  3. Jean Newbold says:

    i think the comments I’ve read here about Mayor Bloomberg and his desire to trim down the size of the drinks served in NYC have all missed the biggest point of all. We are US citizens; as such we are covered by the Declaration of independence and the Constitution. nobody has the right to dictate what we can drink and eat.
    If we don’t care enough to treat our bodies as they should be treated, it’s nobody’s business but our own. Bug off, Mayor B.!

       1 likes

  4. anothernonymous says:

    “All things do in moderation”.. A wisdom that’s hardly workable in our current fast paced society.. Small wonder why were creating our own problems.

       0 likes

  5. Thomas Martin says:

    One person does not have the authority to ban anything from the City of New York or elsewhere. The mayor, although I agree with his thoughts about the large size drinks, should demonstrate leadership and work with the city council to pass such an ordinance throughout the city. Democratic ideals should be demonstrated at all levels of government.

       0 likes

  6. Val Fitzgerald says:

    No good deed goes unpunished.

       1 likes

  7. bob says:

    most people are not educated about the harmful effects of these sugary drinks and foods. To leave it to them to make a healthy uneducated choice is not reasonable unless the dangers ore plainly on the package in print large enough to read by those with poor eyesight. The education should begin in preschool and continue through high school. Then and only then should we let these companies offer the poisonous and dangerous mind and tissue altering substances.

       3 likes

  8. melissa says:

    Silly, misguided political posturing… Education not legislation.

       1 likes

  9. SmilingAhab says:

    “Rather than government-enforced bans (or, at the other end of the spectrum, government subsidies on sugar or corn for HFCS!), consumers should be educated about how sodas, whether sugary or artificially sweetened, affect their health. People need to be empowered to make their own decisions about what they eat and drink and how they treat their bodies.”

    This ignores the fact that sugar is one of the three primary scarcity-cravings after fat and salt. One can educate oneself all day, and most people know sugar is bad for them and fructose is worse – but instincts don’t just flip off like a light switch. It takes a lifetime of constant battle with instincts to overrule them with positive behaviors.

    We are not rational choice calculators provided impetus solely by conscious choices. At some point, the collective consequences of our more vestigial instincts and the impulses they generate has to be addressed, or our civilization will be free to crumble under the weight of its own blubber.

       1 likes

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