Thanks to the efforts of vocal public health advocates, Jamie Oliver and Dr. Aseem Malhotra, Britain passed a sugar tax this week. This tax on sugary drinks will raise an estimated 730 million dollars a year to be used for funding sports and breakfast programs in the schools.
Mexico passéd a tax on sugary drinks and has seen consumption rates drop by 12% in one year. Simultaneously, Mexico has ramped up a program to ensure kids have safe drinking water in their schools.
America urgently needs a sugar tax of our own. The obesity rate in the US hit an all time high this year of 30%. Also, this year, it was announced that 90 million Americans have pre diabetes. The science is clear. Drinking one sugary drink per day increases your risk of obesity by 60%.
Drinking 1 to 2 sugary drinks per day increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by 25%.
Current projections suggest that half of all Latino and Black children in the US will end up with type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Data from Mexico clearly show a tax will decrease consumption. WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?
The sugar tax revenue could be used to:
1) Ensure all families and schools have safe drinking water for their children.
2) Eliminate junk food from our school food program (Fruit Loops, Chocolate milk, Chicken Nuggets, Cocoa Puffs) and replace it with real food so our most vulnerable children have the nutrients they need to thrive.
3) Promote a more sustainable food system by teaching families and communities to grow their own food. (see The Ron Finley Project)
4) Subsidize the purchase of real food through the SNAP program and phase out the purchase of sugary junk food.
From a public health standpoint a sugar tax is a NO BRAINER.
For the anti tax people out there….please think about the looming cost of 90 million pre diabetics. We are looking at catastrophic healthcare costs from the exorbitant complications that diabetics suffer from including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, infections, impotence, and amputation.
In conclusion, WE OWE IT TO OUR CHILDREN to provide clean drinking water, real food, and a childhood that guides youth away from the path to chronic disease.