On his watch, the city has compelled chain restaurants to post calorie counts, barred artificial trans fats in restaurant food and prodded food manufacturers to use less salt. The city has successfully defended some of those initiatives in court.
Because of the limits of city authority and exemptions made for other reasons, the ban on supersized beverages doesn't cover alcoholic drinks or many lattes and other milk-based concoctions, and it doesn't apply at supermarkets or many convenience stores--including 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp.
The rule, if upheld, would create an "administrative leviathan," warned Tingling, who was elected to the state Supreme Court bench in 2001 as a Democrat.
In defending the rule, city officials point to the city's rising obesity rate--about 24 percent of adults, up from 18 percent in 2002 -- and to studies tying sugary drinks to weight gain. Care for obesity-related illnesses costs government health programs about $2.8 billion a year in New York City alone, according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
Critics said the measure is too limited to have a meaningful effect on New Yorkers' waistlines. And they said it would take a bite out of business for the establishments that had to comply, while other places would still be free to sell sugary drinks in 2-liter bottles and supersized cups.
Beverage makers had expected to spend about $600,000 changing bottles and labels, movie theater owners feared losing soda sales that account for 10 percent of their profits, and delis and restaurants would have had to change inventory, reprint menus and make other adjustments, according to court papers.
The city had said that while restaurant inspectors would start enforcing the soda size rule in March, they wouldn't seek fines -- $200 for a violation--until June.
Some restaurants had already ordered and started using smaller glasses for full-sugar soda, while others began experimenting with freshly squeezed juices as alternatives to soda for children's parties. Dunkin' Donuts shops have been telling customers they will have to sweeten and flavor their own coffee. Coca-Cola has printed posters explaining the rules.
The ruling "serves as a major blow to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's incessant finger-wagging," said J. Justin Wilson at the Center for Consumer Freedom, created by restaurants and food companies. "The court confirmed what most New Yorkers already know: They don't need a government regulator to dictate their diet choices. New Yorkers should celebrate this victory by taking a big gulp of freedom."
Jose Perez, a fifth-grade special education teacher in Manhattan who was getting a hot dog and can of soda from a street vendor, called the ruling "dead-on."
"Really, I think it's just big government getting in the way of people's rights," he said. "I think it's up to the person. If they want to have a giant soda, that's their business."