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NYC refreshes anti-sugary drink campaign with new ads

New York City is trying a new approach to get people to lay off sugary drinks where soda is not the main target.

The city's health department has produced ads warning people that drinking too much sweet teas, sports and energy drinks and fruit-flavored beverages can lead to obesity and other health problems. The $1.4 million campaign began appearing on TV and buses around the city on Monday, according to CBS New York.

While fruity drinks may sound healthy, they are often loaded with sugars that can be bad, the ads point out. Instead, consumers should try to drink fat-free milk, seltzer and water, and eat fresh fruit instead of drinking juice. People should downsize their drinks, and be wary of pre-sweetened beverages.

"Non-soda sugary drinks have been marketed as being healthier, with references to fruit and antioxidants, vitamins and energy," New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, a medical doctor, said to Bloomberg Businessweek. "We're trying to warn them that these drinks can have as much or more sugar and calories as soda because we still have a major epidemic of obesity." The ads are a continuation of a "Pouring on the Pounds" campaign that was started in 2009.

Farley pointed out that drinks can often be misleading. A 20-ounce Coke has 240 calories, while the same size Minute Maid lemonade with 3 percent juice has 260 calories. In addition, a 16-ounce orange-mango drink with 30 percent juice may have more than enough of the daily requirements for vitamin A and D, but it also contains high-fructose corn syrup and 230 calories.

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity has been linked to other conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and some of the leading causes of preventable death.

More than half of New Yorkers are overweight or obese, according to city statistics, and one in four children are obese.

Research presented during March 2013 at the American Heart Association's meeting in New Orleans revealed thatan estimated 180,000 people die each year from consuming sugary beverages.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) told CBS in a statement that it was disappointed in the city's new campaign.

"Once again, the New York City Health Department is oversimplifying the complex set of factors behind obesity," Chris Gindlesperger, senior director of public affairs for the ABA, said. "Selectively picking out common grocery items like sugar-sweetened beverages as a cause of obesity is misleading. The public does not believe that solutions to obesity are as simplistic as a ban on the size of just one item that people consume, nor should they."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had attempted to enact a city-wide ban on sugary drinks larger than 16-ounces at food establishments monitored by the city's health department earlier this year. While milk-based and alcoholic beverages would be exempt, juices with low fruit content, sodas and other sugary drinks would have to adhere to the smaller size.

However, because refills and additional 16-ounce drinks would be sold, one study in April 2013 in PLoS One hypothesized that people might actually buy more sugary drinks.

Bloomberg's proposal was put on hold when New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan declared it arbitrary in nature.