NEW YORK — Big sodas can stay on the menu in the Big Apple after New York state’s highest court refused Thursday to reinstate the city’s first-of-its-kind size limit on sugary drinks. But city officials suggested they might be willing to revisit the supersize-soda ban.
The Court of Appeals found that the city Board of Health overstepped its bounds by imposing a 16-ounce cap on sugary beverages sold in restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums and street carts.
“By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the board engaged in lawmaking,” the court wrote in a majority opinion. “… Its choices raise difficult, intricate and controversial issues of social policy.”
Indeed, debate over the soda size cap pitted health officials who called it an innovative anti-obesity tool against critics who considered it paternalistic. Even a Court of Appeals judge, during arguments earlier this month, wondered aloud whether regulators would target triple-decker burgers next.
The American Beverage Association, which led the legal fight against the measure, welcomed Thursday’s ruling against a measure it said would have “limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was “actively reviewing all of its options to protect the health and well-being of our communities”; officials wouldn’t immediately specify what those might be.
City council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement that the big-soda ban would get a hearing if it were brought up in the council. It’s unclear how any such measure might fare in a vote, as she and numerous other council members oppose it.
New Yorkers, meanwhile, greeted Thursday’s ruling with mixed feelings.
Hazel Plunkett, a 51-year-old fundraiser for a public health group, was disappointed that the regulation remains blocked.
“I don’t mind the controversy over it. It’s got to get people’s attention,” she said.
Soda has been under fire for years from health advocates, who say the beverages are harmful because people don’t realize how much sugar they’re guzzling.
“I thought it was ridiculous” — and unfair, said midtown Manhattan cafe manager Young Shin, 30. The measure would have applied to his workplace but not to bars and groceries under state regulation, including 7-Eleven, the home of the Big Gulp.