Tax Sugary Drinks, Kids Get Thinner: Yale Prof

Yale professor and New York official propose tax on sugar-added drinks

American kids are getting fat, but a Yale professor thinks they might not be so wide around the middle if it were to cost more to buy soda than something that does not have sugar added.   

Yale Professor Kelly Brownell and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden are suggesting a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. They make the case in an opinion piece that will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine later this month.

Healthy stuff, like fruits and vegetables, have become more expensive but soda has become more affordable, according to Frieden and Brownell, director of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. And children and adolescents are sucking it down at a rate almost 30 percent higher than they did 10 years ago, they wrote.

Between 10 and 15 percent of their calories from sugary beverages, according to Brownell and Frieden, and a tax could cut consumption of such drinks and their calories, thereby helping to prevent obesity and diabetes. 

“Taxes on tobacco have been highly effective in reducing consumption,” they wrote. "It is difficult to imagine producing behavior change of this magnitude through education alone, even if government devoted massive resources to the task."

Of course, there is a whole industry that makes and delivers fizzy drinks that we all seem to love so much and they are not gung-ho about taxing their products.

The soft drink industry is a big one, employing about 220,000 and indirectly supporting more than 700,000 additional jobs.

Susan Neely, president and CEO for the American Beverage Association, released a statement in response to the article and said they agree that obesity is a big problem, but cited a National Institute of Health study indicating all calories count, whether they come in a can, bottle, bag or as a big plate of greasy, salty fries.

“Taxing these products won't make an ounce of difference in reducing obesity. But these taxes will inflict serious pain to hard-working families, who face higher costs at the store and the risk of losing their job all in the middle of a devastating recession,” Neely wrote. 

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