Nanny State regulations struck down in New York’s highest court

Last week, the New York Court of Appeals struck down the Board of Health’s Portion Cap Rule that banned the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces inplaces such as movie theaters, restaurants and sports stadiums. The move is a win for these businesses, the soft drink industry and for customers who don’t want to be told by their government what they can and can’t drink.

The New York Board of Health first voted to approve the ban of super-sized sugary drinks on September 13th, 2012, with the ban scheduled to go into effect in March 2013. Proponents argued the ban was a positive step in improving public health and in fighting obesity. President and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center Dr. Steven Safyer called the ban “a great step in the battle to turn the [obesity] health crisis around” in New York.

However, the notion that soda is the root "cause" of obesity is not backed up by science.  In her op-ed on Politico, President of the American Beverage Association Susan Neely stresses that “neither the body of science nor the facts support the [soda ban] activists’ claims.” She has pointed out that sugary drinks only account for 7 percent of the calories in a person’s diet, and that from the period between 1999 and 2010 soda sales have declined by 12.5 percent, while “over the same period obesity continued to rise.” According to Neely, the soda ban places “100 percent of the blame” on a significantly small portion of a person’s calorie intake.

Moreover, the city that never sleeps was not too enamored with becoming the city that never drinks soda.In a New York Times Poll from August 2013, 59 percent of New Yorkers polled said that they disapproved of the ban. New Yorkers for Beverage Choices’ Eliot Hoff said that Big Apple dwellers would “continue to voice [their] opposition” and that the organization would “stand with business owners who will be hurt by these arbitrary limitations.” The “arbitrary limitations” mentioned refers to the fact that the ban did not apply to diet sodas, juices or dairy based products, and did not cover supermarkets or convenience stores,unfairly targeting certain types of beverages and establishments.

A day before the sugary drink ban was supposed to take effect in March 2013, a New York State Judge overturned the proposed regulations, calling them “arbitrary and capricious.” The ban was formally killed last Thursday, when the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that it would not be reinstated. The official ruling was that the ban on large super-sized sugary drinks was an overextension of the Board of Health’s regulatory authority.

The ruling is good news for the battle against intrusive nanny state regulations. New Yorkers have the right to personal freedom, which includes the right to choose their own beverages. There are many factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic, but resorting to baseless regulations and punitive measures to try to eliminate these factors is wrong. Instead of restricting Americans’ freedom to make their own decisions, the board of health and other city officials should focus on making sure that the public is educated enough to make an informed choice about their health without being forced into it.

TAGS: Business, Nanny State, issues

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