New York City's ban on big sodas could face legal test

By SAMANTHA GROSS Published: June 15, 2012
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If New York City bans big sodas, what's next? Large slices of pizza? Double-scoop ice cream cones? Tubs of movie-theater popcorn? The 16-ounce strip steak?

Opponents of the proposed ban may use that slippery-slope argument along with other legal strategies to try to block the first-in-the-nation rule.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to bar restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, food carts and delis from selling sodas and other sugary drinks in servings larger than 16 ounces, saying it is a way to fight obesity in a city that spends billions of dollars a year on weight-related health problems.

Whether that's legal, though, is a matter of dispute and all but certain to be tested.

“We're going to look at all of our options to protect our business, our rights to do business and our rights not to be discriminated against. We won't take anything off the table,” said Coca-Cola senior executive Steve Cahillane.

The city Board of Health, appointed by the mayor, is expected to approve the measure after a three-month comment period. It could take effect as early as March, unless the critics who accuse Bloomberg of instituting a “nanny state” can get the courts or state lawmakers to step in.

It's not just businesses and industry groups that could sue. In theory, any individual affected by the ban could bring a legal challenge.

But it wouldn't be enough to simply claim that the ban infringes on personal freedom, said Rick Hills, a New York University law professor specializing in local government law and New York City.



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