Researchers cite a win-win for health care and obesity, but beverage industry balks at proposal
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16 HealthDay News) -- A national tax of 1 cent per ounce of soda and other sugary drinks could stem the United States' obesity epidemic, while generating $14.9 billion the first year alone, health experts say.
That windfall could help finance proposed health care reform, while also funding programs to prevent obesity, say a group of prominent researchers in an article in the Sept. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors believe such a tax would deter people from buying non-nutritious sweet drinks, thereby helping Americans to lose weight and reduce their health risks.
The United States spends some $147 billion -- 9 percent of all health care expenditures -- on medical costs associated with overweight and obesity, the article states.
For consumers, the tax they suggest would increase the cost of a 20-ounce soft drink by 15 to 20 percent and lead to a minimum reduction of 20 calories a day per person from sweetened beverages. The revenue collected would benefit individual states and the federal government.
"There are certain products which make a strong contribution to the obesity epidemic while, conversely, there is no plausible public health benefit [from them]," noted Dr. David Ludwig, senior author of the paper and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
"None of us are arguing that sugar-sweetened beverages should be banned, but the government needs to raise revenues where we have a huge national deficit," said Ludwig, who is also director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children's Hospital Boston. "We have critical health legislation pending and the requirement to do so without further increasing the deficit.
"What better way to accomplish both lowering health care costs through obesity prevention a
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