American Beverage Association Responds To Researchers’ Call For Soda Tax

In response to “A Penny-Per-Ounce Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Would Cut Health and Cost Burdens of Diabetes,” a paper published in the January issue of the journal Health Affairs and reported in yesterday’s VendingMarketWatch, the American Beverage Association issued the following statement:

“Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages will not reduce obesity, nor will it have a truly meaningful impact on obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes or coronary disease. In fact, using assumptions based on ‘lacking or inconclusive’ evidence, the authors estimate their proposed tax would result in an average weight loss of less than one pound per year – an insignificant amount for an obese person. Importantly, a wide range of factors contribute to these health conditions and singling out one set of products in such an overly simplistic manner only undermines efforts to combat them. This paper is nothing more than another attempt by researchers and their supporters who have long advocated discriminatory taxes on beverages to promote a beverage tax, which will have no impact on public health. Consumers do not support these taxes and recognize them for what they truly are – a money grab to raise revenue, as noted by the authors themselves.”

On sugar-sweetened beverages and taxes:

• Calories from sugar-sweetened beverages—including soft drinks, juice drinks, flavored waters and other beverages—make up only 5.5 percent of the calories in the American diet according to according to a National Cancer Institute analysis of government data submitted to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. That means more than 94 percent of our calories come from other sources.

• Sales of regular soft drinks declined by 12.5 percent from 1999 to 2010. Yet, obesity rates continued to rise at the same time.

• A review by George Mason University researchers showed that a 20 percent tax on soda would reduce an obese person’s Body Mass Index from 40 to 39.98 – an amount not even measurable on a bathroom scale.

• And, West Virginia and Arkansas are two states with an excise tax on soft drinks, yet both states rank among the 10 states with the highest obesity rates in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On industry’s efforts to be part of meaningful solutions:

• Voluntary Calorie Labeling: Clear on Calories was announced in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, which addresses childhood obesity by focusing on diet, physical activity and education.

The voluntary commitment to make calories more visible and useful to consumers supports her efforts to help families make informed choices as part of an active, healthy lifestyle.

“Clear on Calories” is one of the ways in which we’ve stepped up to be part of the solution to helping reduce childhood obesity.

We recognize that schools are unique places where parents want greater control over what their children eat and drink when they’re not around. That’s why we successfully implemented national School Beverage Guidelines.

The guidelines removed full-calorie soft drinks from all schools and replaced them with more lower-calorie, smaller-portion options. Under the voluntary Guidelines, only juice, low-fat milk and water are allowed in elementary and middle schools, with the addition of lower-calorie and portion-controlled beverages in high schools.

Through the guidelines, the signatory companies drove an 88 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools since 2004.

The beverage industry cut the total amount of beverage calories produced for the marketplace by 21 percent from 1998 to 2008, due in part to industry’s innovation in providing more zero- and low-calorie and smaller-portion beverage choices.