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City Loses Appeal to Ban Large Sugary Drinks

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The state's highest court on Thursday ruled New York City does not have the right to ban large sugary drinks.

The Court of Appeals ruled the city's Board of Health overstepped its boundaries when it approved a ban on soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.

It was struck down by a lower court in 2012, after restaurant and theater owners - along with beverage companies - sued, arguing the city did not have the right to prohibit their sale.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the ban as a way to fight obesity and other health issues.

The city's Department of Health released a statement shortly after the decision, saying, "Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes by seeking to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods."

Many New Yorkers who spoke with NY1 on Thursday say they never liked the idea, noting it gave the government too much power over their personal matters.

"People have a right to drink what they want to drink. We can't control everything," said one New Yorker.

"I agree. You should be able to drink or eat whatever you want," said another New Yorker.

"If you can't decide what's healthy for you then you are too stupid to make decisions on your own," added a third New Yorker.

City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett says the department plans to continue the fight.

"The problems of obesity and the twin epidemic of diabetes fall disproportionately on poorer communities of color in this city. So this is something that I know that there is wide spread concern about and we're looking at the ways we should go forward," Bassett said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement to say he is disappointed in the ruling.

In it, he said, “We are extremely disappointed by today’s Court decision that prevents the city from implementing a sugary drink portion cap policy. The negative effects of sugary drink over-consumption on New Yorkers’ health, particularly among low-income communities, are irrefutable. We cannot turn our backs on the high rates of obesity and diabetes that adversely impact the lives of so many of our residents. While we are still examining the Court’s decision, it is our responsibility to address the causes of this epidemic, and the City is actively reviewing all of its options to protect the health and well-being of our communities."

Bloomberg said that because of the ruling, "more people in New York City will die from obesity-related impacts."

The American Beverage Association said it is pleased with the ruling, adding the ban would have created an uneven playing field for small businesses and would have limited New Yorkers' freedom of choice.

"We think it's time to move on and get back to focusing on what we consider better solutions and initiatives to help address people's health," said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association.

De Blasio may not be interested in walking away from the regulations. One option under consideration is to have the mayor push the City Council to act.

Winning over the Council is going to be tough, if not impossible, as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito opposes the soda restrictions. Public Advocate Letitia James does as well. She wants the mayor to tackle obesity through other means.

"It's really important that this mayor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, provide funding to all schools in the city of New York so that we can focus not on arbitrary and capricious bans, but on physical education," James said.

Whether or not he asks the City Council for help, de Blasio is expected to act. An aide noted that he feels passionately about this issue.

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