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Will Bloomberg's Ban on Big Gulp Sodas in NYC Lower Obesity Rates?

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In an effort to curb obesity rates, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban to limit the serving size of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages sold at delis, fast-food establishments, restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts in the city.

The proposal would prohibit the sale of sweetened beverages—not including diet soda, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks and alcoholic beverages—larger than 16 fluid ounces, excluding those sold in grocery or convenience stores. That said, under the ban, a person could still buy two 16-ounce sodas in a single transaction. If approved, the plan could take effect as early as next March.

More than half the adult population in New York City is obese or overweight, according to Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City health commissioner, and he points to sugary drinks as the culprit for up to half of the increase in city obesity rates over the last 30 years, reported The New York Times. In a city where roughly a third of New Yorkers drink one or more pre-sweetened drinks a day, Dr. Farley notes obesity rates have primarily spiked in neighborhoods where soda consumption is more common.

A 64-ounce Big Gulp soda contains 143 grams of sugar—triple the amount the American Heart Association recommends a person consume in a single day (40 grams), reported the New York Daily News.

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But the news has sparked wide debate about whether the government has the right to set paternalistic regulations and whether the ban would be effective at all.

"Obesity may be a big problem in this country, but it is certainly not the government’s problem. It is an individual, personal problem. And governmental portion control is as ineffective as it is unconstitutional," expounds reader Gary Taustine, who wrote in to the New York Daily News.

On the other hand, Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, underscores the positive intention behind the ban in the Times: "Of course, this alone won’t halt the epidemics of these diseases sweeping our country, but it is a valuable and creative step in the right direction that deserves the support of everyone who cares about the well-being of our children and all Americans."

The New York Times reader Alice Yen references Bloomberg's numerous other aggressive regulations to improve public health, such as prohibiting artificial trans fat in restaurant food. "The next time he’s called 'Nanny Bloomberg,' be reminded that those health care dollars spent on obesity-related chronic disease are your taxpayer dollars, too," Yen said.

Indian Country Today Media Network invites our readers to weigh in. Is this the kind of step needed to combat obesity in all communities?