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'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support
Date:9/16/2009

nd funding expansion of health insurance coverage than to add a tax to unhealthy foods," he continued.

The idea of levying a "fat tax" or "Twinkie tax" first gained attention in 1994, when Yale University psychology professor Kelly D. Brownell made the proposal in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. Brownell is lead author of the current paper.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said such taxes could help cover the cost of overhauling the U.S. health care system.

Meanwhile, studies continue to link consumption of beverages sweetened with sucrose (regular sugar), high-fructose corn syrup or fruit-juice concentrates to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, not to mention dental decay.

One such study found that each additional serving of sugar-sweetened beverage increased the risk of obesity in middle-school students by 60 percent, Ludwig said.

In another study involving 100 high-school students, eliminating such drinks led to a significant decrease in body weight.

"There are very few comprehensive interventions, let alone single dietary factors, whose modification have led to changes in body weight," Ludwig said. "Identifying a single factor is quite remarkable."

While the tax strategy has reduced cigarette and alcohol use, there's no guarantee it would work with food.

Dr. Stephen Cook, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, does not think this 1-cent threshold is enough to drive down consumption.

A wiser approach, he said, would be to focus on the programs such a tax could benefit and to offset the price of healthier foods and drinks, such as fruits and vegetables and low-fat, non-flavored milk.

The beverage industry opposes a soda tax and also disputes the connection between consumption of sweetened drinks and obesity.

"Excise taxes on soft drinks simply do not reduce obesity rates," the Am
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