N.Y.C.'s Soda Ban Is Blocked

Big Gulp | Photo: Totoro Expy/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Last September 13th, after New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg got his pals on the city's health board to pass his proposed ban of "large sugary drinks" to be sold in restaurants and fast food joints, I circled today, March 12th, on my calendar. You see, today was the day the ban was supposed to go into effect.

When the clock struck midnight, citizens of The Big Apple would no longer be able to obtain sodas or sweetened beverages in cups over 16 ounces. (Unless said beverages contained over 70% fruit juice, were "diet" in nature, or contained alcohol.) While the build-up to the deadline was filled with animosity towards the mayor, and warning about our rights being infringed upon, most of that noise would certainly die down once the ban went into effect. After March 12th rolled around, it would be less about whether or not the ban should be instated and more about the results -- we'd be privy to a social experiment the likes of which have rarely been seen in our country:

Just what are the societal and health impacts of not allowing a city's citizens to ingest massive quantities of sugary fluids in one sitting? Would people simply walk back up to the counter and get a refill, making any benefits from the ban negligible? Would people actually drink more soda because they're being told they shouldn't? Or would this move so drastically lower the rates of diabetes and obesity that mayors of other cities would have to institute similar policies or be deemed irresponsible?

But, alas, all of those questions will have to wait for answers: Yesterday, in one of those pesky 11th hour rulings, a judge blocked the ban.

The argument that Judge Milton Tingling -- which, if you're looking for a name for your band, here it is -- used to block the ban was that it was "arbitrary and capricious." Why?

[T]he ban only applied to businesses under the auspices of the health department, since it was the mayor-appointed health board, and not the city council, that approved the policy last fall. That meant that grocery and convenience stores - including 7 Eleven and its 64-ounce Big Gulp - were exempt from the regulation's reach.

Tingling has a point. The ban was written in a way that focused on a narrow enough portion of the large soda-delivering shops that it felt like Bloomberg and company were picking on certain businesses. (If you can still get a Big Gulp after the ban, is there really much of a ban taking place at all?) But Bloomberg, for his part, has promised to fight the ruling and continue to try to push through soda banning legislation. And he is mincing no words:

"People are dying every day," Bloomberg said. "This is not a joke. This is about real lives."

Meaning this fight is simply at the end of round one with both fighters, a little sweaty and sporting some faint bruises, yet to show any signs of slowing down. But in the meantime, it's probably time to bring the question back to this coast: Should L.A. work on instituting its own large soda ban?

Last time I asked about this, the idea was met with plenty of negativity, with 91.31% of the votes going against a ban. But has public sentiment changed over the past year? Let's find out.


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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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Why didn't you just ask for a straight-up yes or no? I voted no not because "I need my Gulps," but because I don't think government should be empowered to make that decision for anyone. Whether I personally drink 7/11's sugar water isn't relevant.

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Why didn't you just ask for a straight-up yes or no? I voted no not because "I need my Gulps," but because I don't think government should be empowered to make that decision for anyone. Whether I personally drink 7/11's sugar water isn't relevant.