BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE
March 11, 2013
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wants to save the City from obesity, a disease that plagues New York, making it impossible to avert health risks associated with fat. To do so, he went to court and asked the legal system for a ban on soda larger than 16 ounces from food service businesses that are the medium for getting sugary drinks and beverages to New Yorkers.
On Monday, the court dealt a blow to Bloomberg’ petition when it ruled the soda ban is “arbitrary” and “Capricious.” State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, declared the ban invalid after a challenge in court to the Mayor’s move by Businesses and the American Beverage Association. Tangling ruled, NY Mayor and the City’s Board of Heath, lack the authority to issue a Soda ban.
Soon after the ruling, Bloomberg held a press conference where he vowed to appeal the Court’s decision. The Mayor has said the ban is about saving lives and preventing a public health crisis that if not stopped could cause an “epidemic.” Beverage manufacturers and businesses saw a threat to flow of commerce and staunchly criticized Bloomberg’s ban as an infringement on consumers’ right to choose.
The American Beverage Association, did not waste time in its reaction to Tingling’ ruling: “The court ruling provide a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban. With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City.”
Besides the danger it poses as a health risk, obesity is costing New York billions in healthcare payments for treatments. According to New York City government estimates, obesity costs alone are roughly $4 billion annually. It is the largest leading cost of preventable premature death, killing 5,800 New Yorkers annually, and the only major public health issue in America that is getting worse. Sugary beverages are responsible for why one in three adult New Yorker has diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to NYC Blue Room report.
“The obesity epidemic is on track to reverse the enormous progress made in health and life expectancy in recent decades,” According to Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “If obesity rates continue to grow, this generation of children may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents. Our initiatives are bold, targeted and aim to combat this dangerous and growing challenge.”
Bloomberg and his supporters believe limiting the size of sugary drinks to not more than 16 ounces at food service establishments will end the scourge and help fight the obesity and diabetes epidemic. “This intervention will begin to curb the thousands of empty and unnecessary calories New Yorkers consume from sugary drinks every year, and educate people about the health risks they pose,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
The Mayor has made improving health of New Yorkers part of his agenda. In the past, he initiated similar measures to curb public smoking, use of Trans fat in food, excessive salt and safe use of personal music player in the subway and public places. The proposed ban by Bloomberg would have some health benefits. However, it is unclear how effective the ban would be since grocery and convenience stores can still sell sugary drinks in any size.
Big companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi and McDonald’s Corporations, think the law is an illegal overreach and narrowly tailored to serve the City’s healthcare purpose, without a second thought on the economic damage to small and large businesses. There are New Yorkers who say how much Soda one consume, is a personal responsibility that could be left to every person and parents to decide, in the case of children.
While it is incontestable there are health benefits, making it reasonable to introduce some regulations, it could be difficult to enforce a ban with loopholes. There is still a health risk where people can buy sugary drinks in large quantities at grocery stores and convenience establishments. There exists the danger people will consume as much as they want in the confine of their homes, when they can’t buy in McDonald’s or a bar.
A law that limits sugar contents in Soda and other beverages to a level where it poses no danger to human health could be a better option. Whether Bloomberg’s appeal is successful or not, there could be a middle ground that protects the health of New Yorkers, while at the same time, it creates no economic burden on beverage manufacturers and businesses that depend on sales for survival.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at http://www.amazon.com/author/adeyemioshunrinade. Follow on Twitter @san0670.