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The Bloomberg large soda ban is officially dead

Carry on with your large soda, Sarah Palin.
Carry on with your large soda, Sarah Palin.
Pete Marovich Getty Images News

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on large sugary drinks appears to be officially dead — and massive sodas at McDonalds will live to see another day.

The New York Times reported Thursday that New York State's highest court has "refused to reinstate" the proposed limits on large, sugary beverages. A judge with the State Court of Appeals wrote that the restriction "exceeded the scope of [the state's] regulatory authority."

The ban on sugary drinks larger than 16-ounces was meant to stem the massive, and rising, consumption of sugar in American diets. It was part of a larger, and really ambitious, public health mission that Bloomberg pursued during his tenure as New York mayor. He pioneered adding calorie labels to fast-food chain menus (an idea that went national in the Affordable Care Act) and banned the use of trans-fat in the city's restaurants.

Bloomberg wasn't exactly a stranger when it came to having his more ambitious public health policies challenged; the calorie labels took years of legal wrangling before they went up. Fast food chains challenged the requirement as a First Amendment violation, but ultimately lost their battle in court.

Other policies have fallen victim to politics: In 2008, Bloomberg proposed a congestion pricing scheme that would charge an $8 fee to cars entering and leaving Manhattan during business hours. This was an attempt to control air pollution in New York — but it didn't have political legs in Albany, where state legislators never brought it to the floor for a vote.

Whether this is a death knell for large soda bans nationally is a bit hard to know at this point. New York often served as the experiment for the rest of the country to watch, like it did with calorie labels, and not having that initial test is likely a big setback for other cities or states interested in exploring this kind of policy.

At the same time, the New York ruling was a bit idiosyncratic: it applied specifically to the powers that the New York City's Board of Health did (or in this case, did not) have to take this kind of action. Legally speaking, at least, it doesn't do anything to impede other cities that want to take on a similar effort elsewhere.

So far though, the only legislative reaction to the Bloomberg ban wasn't another, similar law elsewhere. It was a new Mississippi law, passed last spring, that specifically barred any municipality or county in the state from restricting soda size.

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