Groups Urge Sugary Drink Tax to Protect Kids; Mass. Has One on Tap

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) encouraged the passage of legislation designed to reduce children’s consumption of sugary drinks.
The AAP and AHA recommended that state and federal legislators consider raising the price of sugary drinks, such as through an excise tax; that the government should support efforts to decrease sugary drink marketing to children and teens; and that federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthy food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks. The groups also urged that consumers have “ready access to credible nutrition information, including on nutrition labels, restaurant menus, and advertisements;” and that “hospitals should serve as a model and establish policies to limit or discourage purchase of sugary drinks.”
The two groups said children and teens now consume 17% of their calories from added sugars—nearly half of which come from drinks alone. Dietary guidelines recommend fewer than 10% of calories from added sugars. Excess sugars lead to tooth decay, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Teens who get more than 10% of their daily calories from added sugars are more likely to have abnormal cholesterol levels, including higher “bad” LDL cholesterol, higher triglycerides, and lower heart-protective HDL cholesterol.
In Massachusetts this legislative session, MHA is strongly supporting H2529/S1709, An Act to Promote Healthy Alternatives to Sugary Drinks, sponsored by Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) and Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). The bill would implement a tiered-tax on non-alcoholic sugar-sweetened beverages based upon the drink’s sugar content. Proceeds from the tax would help fund a variety of community health initiatives. 
The bill recommends three tiers of taxation: drinks with little or no added sugars (7.5 grams of sugar per 12 ounces) will not be taxed at all; drinks with moderate amounts (7.5 to 30 grams) will be subject to a 1-cent-per-ounce tax; and drinks with 30-plus grams per 12 ounces would face a 2-cent-per-ounce assessment. Beverages consisting of 100% natural fruit or vegetable juice with no added sugars would be exempt from the tax. A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola has about 39 grams or 9.3 teaspoons of sugar.