At least in New York City, you still have the right to buy a sugary drink larger than 16 ounces, even if it kills you.
A Manhattan judge this afternoon tossed the city's ban on selling large drinks, a day before it went into effect.
Here's the full opinion.
Non-New Yorkers probably want to know if this decision carries any legal weight with other cities and states interesting in regulating soft drinks to reduce what many consider to be a epidemic of obesity.
The decision isn't made on constitutional grounds -- that is: do you have the right to buy a big slurpie, even if it might end up killing you.
Instead, it was made on rules in New York first put in place in the 1600s delegating who's got the power to do what in the city.
But aside from the question of powers of elected officials, the underlying question in the decision is still a good one worth answering: Is obesity a disease that calls upon health officials to take drastic steps?
If the City of New York bans the sale of 32-ounce sodas, but allows the sale of two 16-ounce sodas to the same customer at the same time instead, what has been gained? (I don't know the numbers, but I would guess that more tax revenue would be collected on the sale of two 16 oz drinks, versus one 32 oz drink.)
Few will dispute the adverse health effects of smoking. Would Hizzoner have been better off trying to ban the sale of cigarettes in NYC, if the real argument was public health concerns? Of course. But there are a lot of tax revenues that come with each pack: state and local cigarette taxes are $5.85/pack in NYC.
The comparison to cigarettes is a good one. Consumption of both products is linked to health risk. When people get sick from long term use of the products, taxes are spent providing health care. One of the products carries 'sin' taxes that are paid when someone purchases the product. The other does not.