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Letter: Support Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages can benefit New Yorkers by reducing consumption of empty calories – which could help fight obesity and generate much needed revenue. The November report from the Bipartisan Policy Center called for the state to impose an excise tax of 1 cent/ounce on these beverages to reduce obesity-related healthcare costs.

Reports from the American Heart Association in 2009 and 2010 called for controlling excess calories by reducing the contribution of added sugars. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of added sugars in Americans’ diet. An additional report by the USDA estimated that a 20 percent price increase on sweetened beverages could cause a reduction of 37 calories per day, or 3.8 pounds of body weight over a year, for adults and 43 calories per day, or 4.5 pounds over a year, for children.

As NY struggles to balance its budget, the legislature must consider skyrocketing healthcare costs related to obesity. The NYS Health Foundation concludes that imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could potentially save $5.6 billion in spending on chronic illnesses related to obesity and overweight. Almost 60 percent of New Yorkers are overweight, and 25 percent are obese. The obesity epidemic is a national crisis with obesity rates and sugar-sweetened beverage intake being particularly high among low-income groups. This disparity may be related to the beverage pricing. At 99 cents for a 2-liter bottle, soda is cheaper than bottled water.

I encourage our NY decision-makers to approve a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as soon as possible.

Judith Wylie-Rosett, EdD, RD

American Heart Association Volunteer