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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Authors

Nicole Anderson

Abstract

Allegations of a so-called "obesity epidemic" have spawned widespread panic throughout the United States. Legislators in California and New York have answered the outcry by crafting regulations which would mandate the disclosure of nutritional information of food items on restaurant menus and menu boards. Although these regulations dream of promoting healthier eating habits throughout the community, they do so by depriving restaurants of their First Amendment rights. A closer look at the regulations reveals a glaring violation of restaurants' freedom of commercial speech, forcing the restaurants to communicate the government's message to their customers without any true causal link between such disclosures and improving health.

This Note proposes that the current regulations implemented in New York City and approved in New York State Restaurants Association v. New York City Board of Health, as well as similar regulations proposed in California violate restaurants' right to freedom of commercial speech. Restaurants are entitled to constitutional protection from being coerced into communicating messages to their customers which are not substantially related to the alleged governmental interest. This Note further alleges that the governmental interest of the "battle against obesity" could easily be achieved through a multitude of means less intrusive on restaurants' rights. The relationship between nutritional disclosure and actually achieving better public health is too attenuated to justify violating restaurants' constitutional rights.

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