For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association endorsed enforcing taxes on sodas, among other precautions, in an effort to reduce children’s consumption of sugary drinks.
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In a joint statement on Monday, the two health organizations recommended that state and federal governments take action to decrease marketing sugary drinks to children and teens.
“Healthy drinks such as water and milk should be the default beverages on children’s menus and in vending machines, and federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthy food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks,” said the AAP and the AHA’s statement.
The groups also suggested that labels warning of the health harms of consuming added sugars should be added to drinks, saying these beverages disproportionately affect children of minorities and low-income communities. In a statement, the AAP and AHA linked high levels of soda consumption to childhood and adolescent obesity, increases in the risk for dental decay, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, fatty liver disease and all-cause mortality.
The American Beverage Association said the industry has removed “more than 90 percent of beverage calories from schools [and has] put prominent calorie labels on the front of every bottle and can [it] sell[s].”
The ABA also claims that sugary drinks are not the sole product driving childhood obesity.
“Beverages are not unique drivers of obesity rates in America. According to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] researchers, obesity rates have been rising at the same time soda consumption has been decreasing. Obesity rates should’ve gone down with the reduction in soda consumption if the two are directly correlated,” said William Dermody, a spokesperson for the ABA.
He added, “Today, 50 percent of all beverages sold contain zero sugar as we drive toward a goal of reducing beverage calories consumed by 20 percent by 2025.”
The beverage industry group said there are ways to reduce the amount of sugar consumers get from beverages by offering smaller portion sizes and making other beverages like water, milk or 100 percent fruit juice the default beverage options at restaurants that serve children’s meals.
The effort by the health groups also encouraged policymakers to draw on “lessons” from tobacco-control efforts, which it called “one of the greatest public health successes of the United States.”
A number of states have already placed taxes on soda, including Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, New York State, Oregon, Rhode Island, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Several cities have also taxed sugary drinks including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, California; Chicago, Illinois; Boulder and Telluride, Colorado; Seattle; Philadelphia and Ketchikan, Alaska, according to the ABA.
A recent study published in the journal “Science,” found that sugary drinks with high-fructose corn syrup feed colon tumors in mice, suggesting that drinking sodas may produce similar results in humans. That research followed a separate study by Harvard researchers that found that the more sweetened beverages a person drinks, the greater the risk that they die of heart disease.