Can soda taxes reduce kids' consumption of sugary drinks?

little boy drinking juice
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U.S. doctors believes it's a serious public health concern that requires drastic action.

Most parents would agree that kids and sugar are a bad combination, but this hasn't seemed to slow the consumption of sugary beverages among the youth of the nation. As type 2 diabetes and obesity levels continue to rise, doctors are growing increasingly worried about the long-term effects on people's health.

Current dietary guidelines state that children should consume no more than 8 ounces of sugary beverages per week, but research shows that American kids are consuming 12 ounces per day, or 150 calories. NPR reports, "By one estimate, kids and teens get about 17 percent of their calories from added sugars — and about half of those calories come from drinks."

Two medical groups have joined forces to take a stance against these sugary beverages, which include fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, and soda. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association issued a statement this week that calls for tighter rules surrounding the consumption, distribution, and advertising of sugary beverages to children. It presents a series of strategies designed to curb children's consumption, some of which are outlined below:

– Introduce taxes on sugary beverages at the local, state, and national levels. These have been shown to disincentivize the purchase of sugary beverages. In Philadelphia, where a local tax was introduced in 2017, people were 40 percent less likely to indulge after the tax went into effect.

– Decrease advertising of sugary beverages to children. Similar to how cigarettes and alcohol were once marketed, sugary beverages are made to appeal 'cool' to children and adolescents. Limiting this would take away much of the appeal, and there are various ways the government could do this, one of which is regulating sponsorship of youth sporting events.

– Provide access to clear, credible nutritional information. Customers should be made aware of risks when purchasing sugary beverages. Warning labels can be helpful, too. "When parents were exposed to a warning label, they chose significantly fewer sugary drinks, believed that sugary drinks were less healthful for their children, and were less likely to intend to purchase sugary drinks."

– Make healthful beverages the default choice. Changing requirements for vending machines, passing 'healthy by default' city ordinances, and removing unhealthy drinks from kids' restaurant menus would help considerably. Hospitals, day care centers, and schools can serve as a model.

In a press statement, Dr. Rachel Johnson, nutrition professor at the University of Vermont and former Chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee, said,

"As a nation we have to say 'no' to the onslaught of marketing of sugary drinks to our children. We know what works to protect kids' health and it's time we put effective policies in place that bring down rates of sugary drink consumption just like we've done with tobacco."

Start this change at home by just serving your kids water. Don't buy soda or even fruit juice; it's easier if it's not even in the house. It may take time to break the sugar addiction, but it's doable, and you'll soon see the difference in their mood, energy level, the quality of their sleep and skin.

Can soda taxes reduce kids' consumption of sugary drinks?
U.S. doctors believes it's a serious public health concern that requires drastic action.

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