Earlier today, a group of medical professionals in Boston, Mass., launched a statewide campaign to encourage pediatricians to discourage consumption of soft drinks and support a bill to remove the state sales tax exemption for both soft drinks and candy. We’ve seen these types of overly simplistic approaches to combating childhood obesity before, so we thought we’d share the problems with this approach.
First, suggesting that there is something unique about the calories in soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages is simply false. Calories are calories, regardless of their source. If we really want to have an impact in reducing childhood obesity, we need to look at comprehensive approaches – like First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. Her effort takes diet, exercise and education into consideration – rather than singling out any one food, beverage or ingredient as the scapegoat. That’s why our industry announced its Clear on Calories initiative in support of the “Let’s Move!” campaign. By voluntarily putting calorie labels on the front of every bottle, can and pack we produce, we’re making it easier for consumers to make informed choices about the beverages that are best for themselves and their families.
Now, why does this group want to remove the sales tax exemption on soda and candy? It’s simple – to generate revenue. Why? Because they think the revenue could be used to help fight childhood obesity or provide funding to local schools. Our industry fully supports helping to fight childhood obesity (and our actions show our support for the nation’s schoolchildren). But attempting to single out soda to do it? We’re not buying it – and others aren’t either. Just last year, a Rasmussen Report found that 73 percent believe that lawmakers who support taxing soft drinks are more interested in raising additional funds for government than public health.
Let’s not forget one very important thing: parents can decide what foods and beverages to give for their children without government help.