New York City’s Soda Ban Loses in Court for the Last Time

The state Court of Appeals overruled Mayor Bloomberg’s long-pending public health policy.

(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Jun 26, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

When Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio first sat down together after the latter won last fall’s mayoral election and the former was at the end of his tenure, the mayor-elect drank a soda. It wasn’t any kind of Big Gulp affair—just a regular-size can, the kind that would still have been available if Mayor Bloomberg’s infamous, misguided soda ban had taken effect. Still, the choice of beverage seemed ironic—De Blasio ran against Bloomberg’s vision of New York City, promising to address the issues of income inequality, lack of affordable housing, and homelessness that had exploded during the billionaire’s 12 years in office. In the face of such systemic social problems, the Bloomberg nanny state never looked more absurd.

And yet today De Blasio (who did support the ban as a candidate) once again defended Bloomberg’s signature policy—but for the last time. Because today’s 4-2 ruling from New York’s Court of Appeals—the highest court in the state—came down against the ban.

“The negative effects of sugary drink over-consumption on New Yorkers’ health, particularly among low-income communities, are irrefutable,” the mayor said in a statement. “We cannot turn our backs on the high rates of obesity and diabetes that adversely impact the lives of so many of our residents.”

The court agreed that the ban was designed “to promote a healthy diet without significantly affecting the beverage industry.” But that’s not what the court was concerned with—the issue is who enacted the ban.

“The value judgments entailed difficult and complex choices between broad policy goals—choices reserved to the legislative branch,” the court wrote. And that’s been the whole problem with the soda ban. Instead of enacting it through the city council, Bloomberg’s public health department instituted the ban, and that’s been frowned on time and again in a series of rulings.

De Blasio could bring his own ban—or a tax—to the city council and attempt to realize Bloomberg’s vision through the legislative process. But if Mayor De Blasio is telling the same story about the tale of two New Yorks that candidate De Blasio did, he might want to expend his political capital addressing the larger issues he was elected to take on.