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January 23, 2013
MANHATTAN, N.Y.New York City officials on Wednesday defended a ban on large sugary soft drinks, contending the restrictions scheduled to take effect in March are "rational" and concerned with obesity.
"The reason for the rule is that there is an obesity epidemic," Thomas Merrill, a lawyer for the city, said during a hearing in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, The New York Times reported. "The rule is rational; the rule is reasonable."
The New York Department of Health reports that 60% of adults in New York State are either obese or overweight and that the rate of obesity in New York City increased from 20% in 2003 to 22% in 2007.
In September 2012, the New York City Board of Health voted to pass the anti-obesity measure, the brainchild of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
James Brandt, a lawyer for the beverage industry, warned in court that the restrictions go too far and could lead to further overreaching by government.
"What comes next? Red meat twice a week, but no more?" Brandt, a managing partner of the New York office of Latham & Watkins, was quoted by the Times as saying. "You can buy your bacon and cheese in the morning, but no eggs on it?"
In October, the beverage industry challenged the ban in a 61-page lawsuit that claims the New York City Board of Health usurped the role of the City Council and lacked authority to issue a rule to prohibit certain businesses from selling sugar-sweetened beverages that are larger than 16 ounces. City officials contend the health board has authority to pass the regulations.
Wednesday's hearing was an opportunity for both sides to present their case in person before Justice Milton A. Tingling Jr. The plaintiffs are expected to request that the court grant a stay on the ban until the case is resolved.
Businesses subject to the prohibition include restaurants, delis, fast-food franchises, movie theaters, stadiums and street carts, however, the ban doesn't impact grocery stores, convenience stores, 7-Elevens, corner markets and gas stations, according to the lawsuit, which was filed against the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York City Board of Health and Dr. Thomas Farley in his official capacity as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.
"As a result, delis and hotdog stands are barred from selling a 20-ounce lemonade, but the 7-Eleven a few feet away remains free to sell Big Gulps," declares the complaint.
Plaintiffs comprise a diverse group including: New York Statewide Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce; The New York Korean-American Grocers Association; Soft Drink and Brewery Workers Union, Local 812, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; The National Restaurant Association; The National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State; and The American Beverage Association.
In October 2011, the New York City Health Department launched a campaign to show that drinking soda packs on the pounds.
Sugary drinks are the largest single source of added sugar in the diet, and a childs risk of obesity increases with every additional daily serving of a sugary drink," Farley said at the time.
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