Court Strikes Down New York’s “Big Gulp” Ban; Good Riddance, Say Policy Experts

New York, NY / Washington, D.C. – Yesterday a New York State judge issued an injunction against New York Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of large sugary drinks at New York City restaurants and other locations.

In a stinging rebuke of Mayor Bloomberg, Judge Milton Tingling ruled that the drink regulations were “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences” that would be difficult to enforce with consistency “even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.”

A first-of-its-kind in the U.S. prohibition adopted by the New York City Board of Health (made up of appointees of Mayor Bloomberg) prevented eateries from restaurants to mobile food carts from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. Under the rules, the city would have been able to fine violators $200 per sale.

Horace Cooper, a legal commentator and an adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, argues that this is likely a “death blow for the sugary drink rule in New York City.”

“Judge Tingling’s ruling makes it clear that Mayor Bloomberg overstepped his authority and should have either left this issue to the state legislature or the New York City Council,” explained Cooper.

“Publicity stunts do not make for good law. Promoting healthy diets is one thing – going well beyond that by mandating that adult consumers face limits to legal products and fining restaurants is dangerous to consumers and retailers. Using a stacked board of hand-picked political cronies to carry it out is illegal,” Cooper argued.

In a statement immediately following the ruling, Jeff Stier, director of the Risk Analysis Division of the National Center for Public Policy Research and a New York City resident, said, “Common sense has just gained a foothold in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign against beverages as a way to curb obesity was properly rebuked by a New York Supreme Court judge today for being arbitrary and capricious.”

“Obesity is a real problem,” Stier added, “but a random ban like the Mayor’s, which was widely ridiculed not only by late-night comedy shows, but by a New York judge, is not a serious way to address a serious issue.”

“Mayor Bloomberg likes to say obesity is an ‘epidemic.’ New York University professor and soda ban advocate Marion Nestle says, ‘Governments have a responsibility to provide healthier environments for their citizens,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “They’re both wrong. The noun ‘epidemic’ is defined as ‘a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.’ The purpose of government is to protect our natural rights to life, liberty, property and, in the Declaration of Independence’s immortal phrase, ‘the pursuit of happiness’ – even when happiness is a 17-ounce Coke and even when certain mayors and academics disagree with our choices. Governments and public servants need to learn their limitations.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than 4% from foundations, and less than 2% from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.