Aurora became Colorado’s largest city to wage war on obesity by pushing forward a measure Monday that requires restaurants in the city to make a non-sugary drink — such as water or milk — the default beverage in a child’s meal.

Parents could still ask for a soda or other sweetened drink, but those types of beverages, which can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce serving, would not be allowed to be displayed on the menu as a part of a bundled kids meal.

The ordinance, which passed on first reading 6-3, still needs a final vote in two weeks. It opened up a sometimes testy debate between council members Monday about the proper role of government in personal choices, such as what to consume at a restaurant.

“This is taking liberty away from parents — this is nannyism at its worst,” said Councilman Dave Gruber. “I don’t think it’s the role of government to tell parents how to raise their children.”

But Councilwoman Allison Hiltz said the state currently imposes nearly 200 pages of regulations on restaurant operations to protect public health and safety and that Aurora’s measure is aimed at tackling the obesity epidemic in the city.

Deliberation on the beverage proposal comes less than a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report concluding that 42.4% of U.S. adults in 2017 and 2018 were obese. The report didn’t include figures for children, but earlier studies from the health agency have concluded that 18.5% of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, affecting 13.7 million young people across the nation.

Colorado’s obesity rate is lowest in the nation, but the state still has more than one in five adults — or 23% — considered obese, according to a 2018 report by the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Obesity rates for African-Americans and Hispanics trend higher, and Aurora is one of the most diverse cities in Colorado. According to the Tri-County Health Department, 30% of youth in Aurora are obese. A person is considered obese if they have a body-mass index of 30 or more.

In its ordinance, Aurora claims that sugary drinks “are the single leading source of added sugars in the American diet” and that almost half of kids 2 to 5 years old “have at least one sugary drink daily.”

That, the city says, increases the probability that the child will become overweight — which in turn boosts the chance he or she will develop health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma and depression.

“The evidence is clear: Sugar negatively impacts the health of our children,” Dr. Christina Suh, associate medical director at Children’s Hospital Colorado, told City Council Monday. “The earlier in life you intervene, the better the outcome will be.”

If the ordinance ultimately passes later this month, it would take effect on July 1 across this city of 475,000 residents.

Aurora’s measure echoes similar efforts to combat sugar-filled drinks across the country. Last year, California, Delaware and Hawaii passed statewide healthy beverage default laws. In Colorado, Lafayette passed a sugary drink law targeting child’s meals in 2017, which the Daily Camera reported was the first effort of its kind in Colorado.

Longmont City Council is scheduled to discuss a similar ordinance at a study session on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Boulder’s tax on sugary drinks — which at 2 cents per ounce was the steepest such measure in any of the seven U.S. cities that have taxed them — is in its third year.

Naomi Amaha Gollnick, vice president of health strategies with the American Heart Association, said Aurora’s measure is not a ban on sugary drinks.

“We’re just trying to ensure that the healthy option be the first thing kids are presented with,” she said. “We’re not trying to interfere with parental choice — we’re trying to put in a consistent standard for healthy beverages being promoted on kids’ menus.”

Aurora’s measure has the backing of the Tri-County Health Department and Children’s Hospital Colorado, which stated in a letter to the city that “we believe in making sugary drinks the exception, not the rule; the option, not the default.”

Councilman Curtis Gardner said he objected to the government telling people what to drink.

“Frankly, that’s my responsibility and my burden as a parent,” he said.

Councilwoman Marsha Berzins, who called the measure “overreaching,” asked why the city doesn’t clamp down on other sweet treats — such as jelly, ketchup and pancakes and syrup — if it wants to really tackle the sugar epidemic.

The Colorado Restaurant Association weighed in with the suggestion that Aurora permit both 100% juice and low-fat chocolate milk as default beverage options, “both of which are currently allowed in schools under USDA guidelines.” That amendment failed.

A representative from the association said the need to reprint menus to comply with the law could have negative economic impacts on local restaurants. Council members discussed providing some money to cover some of those costs.

The Aurora Business Advisory Board in January urged the City Council not to pass the measure, saying the rule would be an “imposition on business owners” and difficult to enforce.

A violation of the ordinance would be a civil infraction, not a criminal one. Fines would be capped at $500 per incident.