No Soda for You!

The WSJ reports:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson have asked the federal government to bar New York City food-stamp recipients from using the benefit to buy sugary drinks, an effort to determine if the move would decrease obesity and diabetes problems.

The request, sent late Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, could affect an estimated 1.7 million city residents who receive food stamps. As much as $135 million in federal nutrition benefits is used to buy sugar-sweetened drinks, the mayor’s office said. . .

Food-stamp users cannot use benefits to buy alcohol and cigarettes. The request asks that the USDA allow city officials to have two years to assess if sugary-drink purchases drop, as well as problems associated with diabetes and obesity, a mayoral spokeswoman said. The proposal would not affect the total benefits received, she said.

So is this an example of over-weening paternalism? Or is it a responsible limitation on government assistance?