I attended the brief appeals hearing yesterday at which lawyers for the New York City Department of Health (DOH) and the American Beverage Association (ABA) presented final arguments for and against the DOH 16-ounce soda cap initiative (for recap, see previous post).
The judges challenged the DOH lawyer on jurisdiction, judicial precedents, scientific basis, efficacy, rationality, and triviality. One said “Do you need a PhD in public health to know that sugary drinks aren’t good for you?”
Another kept referring to the initiative as a ban: “It would mean sodas cannot be sold…”
The big issues raised by ABA:
- Does DOH have jurisdiction?
- Is the cap rational?
- Does the soda cap adequately balance public health, personal liberty, and economic factors (i.e., beverage companies’ “rights” to sell as much sugar water as they can get away with)?
DOH argues that it does have jurisdiction and that there is plenty of precedent.
DOH also argues that the proposed 16-ounce cap is well supported by research and makes good sense.
I find DOH Commissioner Tom Farley entirely rational—and persuasive—when he talks about these issues.
Reporters from the Associated Press and the New York Times must have been there too. Both noted that the judges were much tougher on the DOH attorney than on the one from the ABA. The DOH attorney seemed to have trouble responding to questions about precedents. Did she not read the DOH’s impressive “plenty of precedent” piece?
Obesity—and its type 2 diabetes consequences—are problems requiring action. I’d like to see the soda cap tried.
But despite Commissioner Farley’s optimistic statements to reporters, this hearing didn’t make the possibility sound hopeful.
And here’s CDC’s reminder of what this is all about: