Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is exploring new ways to regulate the size of large sugary drinks in New York City, holding high-level meetings behind closed doors with health advocates and beverage industry executives.
"Mayor de Blasio has made clear he supports a ban on large sugary drinks," his spokesman, Phil Walzak, said on Thursday. "The administration is currently considering plans on the best way to reach that goal."
Earlier this year, a New York State court gave the beat down to former mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on 16-ounce sodas. The court found that the city's Board of Health did not have such wide-sweeping authority.
But that victory might be shortlived. The court's findings didn't put the kibosh on bans qua bans: It merely found issue with the procedural methods the administration pursued to achieve its intrusive goals. Only the elected City Council has the authority to ban saccharine libations, the court said. The door for new prohibitions was left wide open—a door the de Blasio administration is looking to slink through
De Blasio is treading softly and carrying a big soda, however. He realizes that at the moment the City Council would probably not sign off on a large sugary beverage ban:
While Mr. de Blasio said last year he would pursue legislation if the state's highest court agreed the council was the proper body to impose such regulations, the administration has been wary of introducing a bill. A majority of council members, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, voiced opposition to the Bloomberg-backed regulations.
Yet if Councilman Corey Johnson is a reliable bellwether, the Council won't take too much convincing:
He opposed Mr. Bloomberg's ban largely because of jurisdictional reasons. Mr. Johnson also said he was concerned Mr. Bloomberg's plan treated "similar businesses in an uneven way." "I am completely open to looking at a fair and healthy way" to regulate sugary beverages citywide, he said.
Dr. Thomas Farley, health commissioner under Bloomberg and the Oz of the first soda ban, thinks the uphill battle to convince the Council to meddle even further into personal affairs is winnable. He "said the council could approve regulations that are broader than the original Bloomberg proposal."
The effectiveness of such soda bans is debatable, to say the least. What isn't debatable is that de Blasio is trying his best to keep alive a cherished NYC tradition of banning everything in sight. Gone are the days of smoking flavored cigarettes in public while stuffing your face with salty trans-fat flavored French fries. Now even horse-drawn carriages and Big Gulps are (once again) under threat.