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Is a beverage ban the answer?

Photo courtesy of the New York City Health Department's ad campaign.

Depending on whom you ask, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s controversial plan to limit the size of sugary beverages sold across the five boroughs is either a “significant move in addressing the health problems that are devastating the lives of thousands” or another example of the city’s “unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks.”

The plan sets a maximum size of 16 fluid ounces for non-alcoholic sugary drinks as well as self-service cups sold in establishments like movie theaters, stadiums and restaurants. The Board of Health will vote on the Mayor’s proposal this September.

Exempt from the proposed restrictions are sugary beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores that don’t sell prepared food. (For a closer look, the New York Times has this graphic illustrating which beverages would fall under the ban as it currently reads).

As Need to Know reports in this week’s episode, the New York City Health Department has also launched an aggressive ad campaign aimed primarily at children and young adults who are at risk for becoming obese. The ostensible goal is to change what kids eat — and especially what they drink — as a means to prevent the onset of obesity in adolescents.

The industry-backed group “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices” has countered such ads with its own media push, showcasing brief video snippets of city residents expressing their displeasure with the proposal.

Supporters of the Mayor’s initiative, who run the gamut from filmmaker Spike Lee to celeb chef Jamie Oliver, suggest that while the ban may not hinder childhood obesity rates, it may at least prompt individuals to think critically about their sugar consumption.

Associate news editor at Alex Koppelman wrote, “Even if the ban does nothing but shift the discussion about what the government can do to protect the health of its citizens in his favor, Nanny Bloomberg will have won, and we’ll be better off for it.”

Do you agree? Is the Mayor’s plan to target soda and sugared drinks the right move to combat childhood obesity? Should Americans be left alone to make their own decisions about healthy eating? Sound off in our comment section below, or join the debate on Facebook and Twitter.