There goes the last bit of fizz in New York City’s overcharged bid to ban the sale of enormous sugary sodas.
The state’s highest court has ruled that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg stepped way over the line in 2012 when he ordered the Health Department to ban the sale of sodas in containers of 16 ounces or more.
This is a welcome reminder that no mayor rules by fiat.
But if the court clearly made the right call, its ruling left a rapidly growing public health dilemma unsettled: Sugary soft drinks are playing a role in America’s growing obesity epidemic — and something must be done. But what?
The answer in the city now rests with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said he was “extremely disappointed” with the court’s decision — noting that the ill effects of sugary sodas are utterly “irrefutable.”
As a supporter of the Bloomberg ban, he could ask the City Council to pass a new one. But for now he’s weighing his options.
We hope he goes with a strong city Health Department advertising campaign against obesity and sugar rather than trying to restrict the rights of sugary-soda lovers.
For one thing, he could hit some strong headwinds in the council. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito among others has said she’s against a ban and it’s not likely to pass.
And then there’s a matter of principle: The city should tread lightly whenever it’s tempted to step in and modify human behavior. Sometimes it’s necessary as in the case of smokers. But unlike smokers, soda lovers are only risking their own health — not the health of those around them.
It’s not City Hall’s duty to tell people at baseball games and lunch counters, in cafes, theaters and bodegas, that they are by law forbidden from guzzling more than 16 ounces of their favorite high-caloric beverage in a single sitting.
A few years ago, the city had an ad campaign warning New Yorkers about the risks of “pouring on the pounds.” That’s a persuasive message. It should stick with that.