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Judge puts a cap on NYC's sugary-drink ban

A state judge Monday struck down a controversial rule limiting the size of sugary drinks in New York City, a day before the ban was set to take effect.

State Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling said the regulation, which would make it illegal for restaurants, movie theaters and other food service businesses to sell sugary drinks in containers greater than 16 ounces, was "arbitrary and capricious," and that the city was overstepping its jurisdiction.

"The rule would not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it," the judge wrote in his 37-page decision.

Bloomberg, who made the ban his top public health initiative, said it was designed to save lives by helping to cut down on obesity among New Yorkers. At least 5,000 city residents die each year from obesity, he said.

"We believe it's reasonable to draw a line and it's responsible to draw a line right now," Bloomberg said at a news conference last night. "We think the judge is totally in error in the way he interpreted the law and we are very confident that we will win on appeal."

Bloomberg promised to keep pressing his effort to combat a growing obesity epidemic linked to heart disease and diabetes. He has successfully fought off past court challenges to the smoking ban and the calorie count rule.

"Any time you adopt a groundbreaking policy, special interests will sue," Bloomberg said. "That's America."

Plaintiffs called the decision a win for city businesses that they say would have lost millions from the ban.

"The court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban," said Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Under the ban, any establishment that had a letter grade from the health department would have been fined $200 per violation. Diet sodas, alcohol and dairy products would not have been outlawed.

Supermarkets are exempt because they are regulated by the state, and Tingling said those exemptions made the mayor's obesity fighting intentions moot.

"The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of the rule," he wrote.

Dr. Lisa Young, an adjunct professor of nutrition and public health at NYU, disagreed with the ruling, saying soda has no health benefits whatsoever.

"We're not picking Doritos over potato chips, they're doing things that have no nutrients. So it's not capricious at all," she said.

With Anna Sanders and AP

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