Health Care Practitioners Say Beverage Tax Has Potential To Reduce Obesity In United States; Voters Remain Divided

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A poll of 754 physicians and other health care practitioners, taken at the annual conference of the Academy for Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM) on October 30, revealed that 55 percent believe a tax on sugar-laden beverages will reduce obesity in the United States.

While few would argue that drinking drinks with large amounts of sugar are bad for you, voters in the recent midterm elections were decidedly mixed on the merits of such a tax.

On Tuesday November 4th, voters in Berkeley, California passed Proposition D, imposes a tax on all beverages with added sugar, excluding alcoholic beverages, milk products or drinks used for medical purposes — the first U.S. city to do so. However, on the same day, a similar measure in San Francisco failed to get the two-thirds majority vote it needed to pass.

Both of these measures were preceded by Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to ban the sale of soft drinks in portions above 16 ounces in New York City in 2012. Bloomberg wanted the ban, but instead of bringing his proposal to the city council, he took it to the Board of Health, which approved it. The ban was struck down by New York’s Court of Appeals in June of 2014.

According to Mimi Guarneri, President of AIHM, “While health care professionals can’t guarantee behavior change, taxing sugar-laden beverages will be a step toward reducing obesity within the population, and a step toward people taking responsibility for their health.”

The vote in Berkeley was a sweet victory for anti-soda advocates. But it remains one small step on a long journey towards reducing obesity by legislating a tax on the consumption of sugary drinks.

[Photo Credit: Vox Efx on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]