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Barbs Fly at Soda Ban Hearing

Health board hears from City Council, public on proposed sugary drink ban.

The New York City health board hosted a public hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces Tuesday - and not since he decided to try for a third term has a legislative issue generated this much heat.

Before the hearing, the mayor told assembled members of the media that the proposed soda ban was, at its heart, a matter of life and death.

"Sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic," Bloomberg said, according to the Associated Press. "This year, an estimated 5,800 New Yorkers will die because they are obese or overweight."

City Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, who is also a candidate for Congress, said the measure seemed somewhat hypocritical, given the difficulty that many city students have finding city-sanctioned exercise.

"If we were serious about health, we would not struggle to restore after-school programs in the city budget each year to keep kids active," Halloran said. "Our Department of Education would require a gym teacher in each school, something nearly one quarter of city public schools do not have. Rigorous physical education courses would be required for all students, and we'd require classes in nutrition." 

With a strong rhetorical flourish, Halloran chastised the bill as an assault on civil liberties.

"When they came for the cigarettes, I didn't say anything, because I don't smoke. When they came for the MSG, I wasn't concerned, because I don't use it. When they went after salt, it was okay, because I am not a big salt eater," Halloran said. "But will the government be telling me when to go to bed next? Or how big my steak should be? How many potato chips I can eat? After all, it's all in the name of my health. And clearly the government knows what's best for me."

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