This past June, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a city-wide ban on the sale of sugary drinks over 16 oz. in size. It was quickly approved just three months later by the city’s health council and was set to go into effect today, March 12. Yesterday, Justice Milton A. Tingling Jr. of the NY State Supreme Court blocked the ban, calling it “arbitrary and capricious” with its “confusing loopholes and voluminous exemptions.”
The decision comes as a disappointing blow for Bloomberg and other health advocates (ourselves included). While groups against the controversial ban claim that people can control themselves and the government has no business telling us what we can and can’t eat/drink, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of a growing obesity epidemic. One of the biggest culprits? Empty liquid calories in the form of sugary beverages. Nutritionally devoid sodas and other artificially sweetened drinks increase not only our waistlines but our risk for serious health problems like diabetes. Rising health care costs associated with obesity are taking their toll on the economy too, meaning that this issue goes far beyond personal consumer choice.
We understand that people want the freedom to choose what they purchase, and they’re right to be upset when that freedom is threatened. But this ban–the suggestion to control your intake by purchasing smaller sized sodas–isn’t eliminating the option to purchase soda. It’s not taking them off the shelves and turning a can of Coke into some black market contraband item. It’s simply deterring people from consuming more soda than they need to by making it a little more expensive to drink a lot of it. You can still have sugary beverages (though we’re not sure why you would). You would just have to consider whether they (and the negative effects on your health) are worth the extra money.
For now, the beverage industry wins. New Yorkers won’t be forced to choose whether they want to drink less soda or pay more to drink their “normal” amount. But Bloomberg has vowed to seek an appeal for the block. If city legislators see reason, NYC residents may face a “soda tax” anyway.