NYC sugary drink ban: Bloomberg sounds off in wake of last-minute hold-up

Businesses and residents of New York City are preparing for the March 12th rollout of the ban on sugary soft drinks and sodas over 16 ounces. Weijia Jiang reports on the cola crackdown in the city.

(CBS News) New York City's ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces was supposed to start today. But a judge threw cold water on the plan Monday afternoon.

The last-minute legal development is a blow to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to fight obesity.

The mayor has called sugar-sweetened beverages a leading cause of obesity and says raising awareness simply isn't enough anymore. But his call for action in the form of this ban will have to wait. Soda and sugary beverages of any size will continue to flow in New York City.

In his ruling, State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling Jr. wrote the ban would be "arbitrary and capricious" because it applied only to some drinks. He wrote, "...a host of other drinks contain substantially more calories and sugar than (those) targeted... Including alcoholic beverages, lattes, milk shakes, (and) frozen coffees..."

Due to limits on city authority, the ban would apply to only some food establishments like restaurants and movie theaters, but not to convenience stores.

Still, Bloomberg said a line had to be drawn: He said, "Being the first to do something is never easy. When we began this process we knew we would face lawsuits. Anytime you adopt a groundbreaking policy, special interest will sue. That's America."

The mayor even took his argument to a national audience on the "Late Show with David Letterman" Monday night, saying, "For the first time in the history of the world, more people will die from overeating than undereating this year."

But he didn't lose his sense of humor on the show when he quipped about his own "addiction," saying, "You don't ban Cheez-Its. Cheez-Its are OK."

Matt Greller, with the National Association of Theater Owners of New York State -- one of the groups that filed suit -- said, "We have something at stake here. We would have an economic impact. And we also don't think this would have any impact whatsoever on the health of New Yorkers. It would only have a detrimental impact on the health of businesses."

He said concessions, including soda, are an important moneymaker for movie theaters. "This mayor has done a lot of great things to raise awareness and improve public health," he said, "but this was, again, not the right way to do it, and that's why we disagree with him."

Just before Monday's ruling, Bloomberg appeared confident: "I think you're not going to see a lot of pushback here at all," he said. "I think everybody across this country should do it."

As he spoke, he may not have expected to hold another press conference later the same day. CBS News' Seth Doane remarked, "You've expended so much personal, political capital..."

Bloomberg said, "I didn't expend political capital -- I'm trying to do what's right. I've got to defend my children and you and everybody else and do what's right to save lives. Obesity kills. There's just no question about it."

Many of the groups opposing this ban ultimately fear that if it had taken effect in New York City, it could've spread to other cities across the country. The mayor says the city will appeal the judge's decision, and said he believes the city will prevail.

Watch Seth Doane's full report above.

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