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Qns pols back industry suit challenging city soda ban

Various sized cups and sugar cubes are displayed at a news conference at City Hall in May. The beverage and other industries are suing to prevent the city from limiting the size of sugary drinks in some venues. AP Photo/Richard Drew
TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens politicians from the left and right voiced their agreement with a recent lawsuit filed by the beverage industry last week against the controversial soda ban limiting the size of sugary drinks in many city venues.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said it is unfortunate the public has to resort to suing over the rule, but he contended the measure goes way too far in the direction of a nanny state.

“Obesity is a real problem,” he said. “But you’re not going to solve it by reducing the size of big sodas.”

The soda rule, passed by the city Board of Health last month, will limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces in any establishment that requires a city Department of Health grade, including restaurants, movie theaters and sports arenas, but not in other venues such as 7-Elevens or grocery stores.

The American Beverage Association and several other soft-drink industry and restaurant groups filed the lawsuit Friday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The suit argues the Board of Health did not have the authority to pass the rule, which should have gone through the City Council as legislation instead.

Avella said there are more effective ways to fight obesity, such as increasing school programs for physical education. He pointed to a school in his district, which he says does not have a gym, as an example. He also said in some schools students are eating lunch as early as 10 a.m.

“These are real problems. Why isn’t he addressing these things?” Avella said, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the rule as a way to cut obesity rates.

Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who has long been a vocal opponent of the rule, said a lawsuit was to be expected.

“It was inevitable,” he said. “The ban has legal infirmities because it is not equally applied to businesses in the city of New York.”

Avella maintained the rule should have been proposed as a bill to be voted on by the Council.

“Anything that regulates behavior by the citizens of New York should go through the legislative body,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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