Sugary drinks were again the target of anti-obesity efforts this week as the American Medical Association threw its support behind a tax on these beverages. At the AMA annual meeting Wednesday, members of the organization – the largest physician group in the country – voted to adopt a policy that promotes taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages. A growing body of research has linked added sugars to higher body weight and to health conditions associated with being overweight, such as Type II diabetes. Sugar sweetened beverages account for approximately half of Americans’ added sugar intake, according to AMA. AMA supports a sugary drink tax both because it will make consumers think twice before spending on these products and because the extra money would contribute to anti-obesity measures such as treatments for obesity-related conditions and consumer education. “While there is no silver bullet that will alone reverse the meteoric rise of obesity, there are many things we can do to fight this epidemic and improve the health of our nation,” said AMA board member Alexander Ding, M.D in a statement Wednesday. “Improved consumer education on the adverse health effects of excessive consumption of beverages containing added sweeteners should be a key part of any multifaceted campaign to combat obesity.” According to a report by AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health, a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks would lower obesity rates by 5 percent and would save $17 billion in medical costs over 10 years. AMA noted that it will also continue to support research into potential negative effects of the long-term consumption of zero-calorie sugar substitutes.

  • Rachel

    These rapacious physicians are distracting us from the real crisis in health care — we can’t afford it. Instead of looking inward at unbridled overuse of medical testing & technology and rampant overcharges for absolutely everything they touch, these greedy bastards are promoting yet another tax upon their patients. We don’t need more taxes….we need a deep housecleaning in the medical profession to root out greedy pigs in the health care sector. A health care worker does not “heal thyself” but rather pillages and plunders to become “well heeled” at the expense of innocent victims (formerly patients). These creeps invented the $5 aspirin tablet for cripes sakes.

  • detroit dan

    Oh my, the doctors want new taxes with revenues diverted into coffers of the doctors. Original thinkers, those doctors. Do you suppose hospital business administrators helped figure this out?
    Here’s an idea, let’s tax greedy doctors and hospital administrators to fund health care for average people. Too original an idea for doctors to diagnose?

  • Returning to the topic of this post …
    I would be curious about how much of an impact a soda tax would have. I’m not as optimistic as the AMA, though I agree that some measures have to be taken.
    I actually rather like the Bloomberg approach of limiting cup sizes. There’s something rather direct about his approach that appeals. He’s made us stop and think about the absurdity of cup sizes nowadays–and stopping and thinking is what we want from people.
    I can’t see that adding a few more pennies in cost to that Big Gulp is going to make that much of a difference.
    Still, anything that helps.

  • Michael Bulger

    You might be interested in Yale’s Rudd Center and this policy brief:
    (There is more work out there about the effects of price changes and consumption, if you want to poke around some journals.)
    Because tax revenues would be used to fund health campaigns there is another layer to the issue of SSB taxes. Even if the reduction in consumption is moderate, or offset by other sources in the beginning, the tax would lead to a more sustained intervention effort that would produce positive results.

  • Michael, thanks for the link.
    Your points are good, and I’m for anything that starts to make a dent in soda consumption.
    I’m just not sure that taxing will help specifically with soda, primarily because, unlike with cigarettes, one can see how the soda companies could game the system to lessen the impact.
    However, I would be ecstatic to have my skepticism proven to be unfounded, and am more than willing to back proposals for taxing sodas. As you note, at least the additional funding for anti-obesity programs is a win.

  • Oswald

    Sure, let’s direct MORE tax dollars into the pockets of the public health frauds on whose watch we grew obese in the first place. They failed as educators, now they try their hand as autocrats running on a pop science platform. They should all be fired and replaced with competent public health practitioners who understand and respect science.