- The mayor's bill would cap soda cup size at 16 ounces in food-service establishments
- "Sugary drinks are a leading contributor to the obesity epidemic," Bloomberg says
- The proposal falls flat with the National Restaurant Association
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed would happen, the New York City Law Department has filed an appeal after a New York judge scrapped the city's controversial ban on big containers of soda.
"Consistent with our desire to get a quick appellate review, the city filed its brief with the appeals court this week," said Fay Ng, senior counsel for the department's appeals division, in a written statement. "The sugary drinks proposal is an important part of the mayor's health initiative."
The Board of Health regulation would limit the size of drinking cups for sugary beverages to a maximum of 16 ounces at city food service establishments.
The regulation was adopted in September to help lower obesity rates, but a state Supreme Court judge overturned it as "arbitrary and capricious."
Dozens of community groups and minority organizations signed on to friend-of-the-court, or amicus, briefs in support of the appeal, said Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley, in a news release.
"The organizations and individuals who have joined these amicus briefs understand the toll that obesity is taking on communities here in New York City and across the nation," Bloomberg said.
"Sugary drinks are a leading contributor to the obesity epidemic that is hitting low-income communities especially hard, and we cannot afford to pretend otherwise. Our plan to limit the portion size of sugary drinks is a sensible step that has won increasing levels of support from the public health community."
The city says that obesity-related illness kills more than 5,000 New Yorkers each year.
"The health consequences of obesity are dire, leading to diabetes, cancer and loss of life," Gibbs said. "The real fear that today's youth may be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents is a call to action."
One of the friend-of-the-court briefs, which were to be filed Friday, focuses on evidence showing a correlation between sugary drink consumption and obesity and chronic diseases, along with their disproportionate impact on underserved communities, the news release said.
Some 20% of New York City public school children are obese and another 20% are overweight, according to the city. Latino children are twice as likely as white children to be obese (23.5% vs. 12.3%).
"It's time to say enough! (¡basta!) and put community and children's health first," said Dr. Jane L. Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.
The limitations on cup size have provoked ridicule from some people. "I think this is what makes liberals look like elitist bullies who think they know everything and can tell people what to do," Bill Maher said on his HBO show "Real Time." "You shouldn't have to clear what you eat with the municipal government."
An executive with the National Restaurant Association -- which represents 500,000 restaurant businesses across the country -- called the city's efforts at change "heavy-handed" and was effervescent over Bloomberg's most recent loss in court.
"We very much questioned the efficacy of putting a dent in obesity by restricting the cup size in restaurants in New York City that sold sugar-sweetened beverages," said Scott DeFife, the association's executive vice president for policy and governmental affairs, in an interview this month. "We don't think that micromanaging food service packaging is the way to end obesity in New York City."
Bloomberg's attempt to limit the size of sodas inspired Mississippi -- whose 34.9% obesity rate is the nation's highest -- to pass an "anti-Bloomberg" law.
"It simply is not the role of the government to micro-regulate citizens' dietary decisions," Gov. Phil Bryant wrote this month.
But Bloomberg has been undeterred. "'Saturday Night Live' couldn't write this stuff," he said recently about Mississippi's move. "We have a worldwide, nationwide problem on obesity. This year, more people will die from overeating than from starvation -- first time in the history of the world."
"How can somebody try to pass a law that deliberately says we can't improve the lives of our citizens?" he asked. "It's farce."
Arguments are scheduled for June.