Health groups back proposals taxing sugary drinks, limiting marketing to kids

Two major health groups are backing policies intended to keep kids from drinking soda and other sugary beverages that can contribute to health problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association on Monday endorsed proposals that would tax sugary drinks and limit the marketing of the beverages to children.

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“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” said Natalie Muth, a physician and lead author of the policy statement. "As a pediatrician, I am concerned that these sweetened drinks pose real — and preventable — risks to our children’s health, including tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. We need broad public policy solutions to reduce children’s access to cheap sugary drinks.”

The two groups recommended that local, state and national policymakers collect excise taxes on sugary drinks, with revenues going toward improving access to health care.

Several cities have already begun taxing sugary beverages.

The federal government has taken similar approaches to reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption.

The groups added that government officials at the state and national level should support efforts to decrease the marketing of sugary drinks to children and teens.

Beverage companies spent $866 million in 2013 on marketing to children and adults, with most teens seeing at least one ad for a sugary drink every day, according to the most recent data from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Children from minority and low-income communities are disproportionately harmed by e asy access to low-cost sugary drinks, according to Monday's policy statement.

"We know what works to protect kids' health and it's time we put effective policies in place that bring down rates of sugary drink consumption just like we've done with tobacco," said Rachel Johnson, chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee.