AMA Says Money From Soda Taxes Should Be Used To Fight Obesity

While the American Medical Association isn’t going so far as to say we should institute a tax on sugary sodas so as to combat the obesity crisis, it did recommend that any such taxes should be used for fighting the healthy fight in America.

The nation’s largest physician organization met today for its House of Delegates get together in Chicago, where two recommendations to commit support to soda taxes failed to pass. But the group did note that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is strongly and consistently linked with increased body weight and health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

“While there is no silver bullet that will alone reverse the meteoric rise of obesity, there are many things we can do to fight this epidemic and improve the health of our nation,” AMA board member Dr. Alexander Ding said in a statement.

Cutting out sugary drinks, which make up almost half of Americans’ added sugar intake would greatly reduce empty calories, says the AMA, while also recognizing that obesity is caused by many factors. Using taxes levied against sodas could be used to help fund education campaigns and other obesity-related programs.

From Reuters:

Increasing taxes on sweetened beverages to a penny per ounce would reduce obesity rates by 5 percent and cut medical costs by $17 billion within a decade, the AMA Council on Science and Public Health said in its report.

Even more benefit could come if the proceeds of these taxes were used to support obesity education efforts, the group said.

The American Beverage Association didn’t like that so much, responding in a statement that “funding anti-obesity programs through discriminatory taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages is misguided.”

After New York City announced a plan to consider a limit on soda serving sizes, other cities have been formulating their own anti-soda campaigns. Companies like Coca-Cola have said the nation should trust consumers to make their own decisions regarding drinking sodas, and that the drinks can’t be blamed for the current obesity epidemic.

Soda taxes should be used to fight obesity: doctors [Reuters]


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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Just like cigarettes, I agree. Just don’t put it on diet soda.

    • Claybird says:

      Diet Soda usually is effing terrible unless its Pepsi Max or TAB!

      • visual77 says:

        That’s what I thought, too. But then when I forced myself to drink that instead of regular soda to lose weight, I found myself getting used to the taste fairly easily. I now drink mostly diet even though my weight dropped down to where I wanted. I only have regular soda if it’s part of a mixed drink or diet is not available.

        • George4478 says:

          >>I only have regular soda if it’s part of a mixed drink

          So, daily?

        • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

          I grew up on Coca-Cola and drank far more than I probably should have. My brothers and I were like Coca-Cola connoisseurs and could tell how and when it was bottled. I entered a contest and was the only person able to correctly identify over a dozen sodas by taste. City water was so bad in some places we used to say it was too thin to chew but too thick to drink. Bottled water wasn’t something available in those days.

          I can’t stand the dishwater flavor of Diet Pepsi, but Coke Zero has me addicted. Can’t believe I prefer it to the real thing. I generally try to stay away from fountain versions due to the saccharin aftertaste but I’m getting used to that too. (and of course not where the tap water is horrid)

          Get the government to make cities meet the federal water standards with the money and not create new departments to please AMA’s self-serving lobbying. I’m guessing that the 1¢ per ounce will add up to far more than the $17 Billion over the next decade. Here’s an idea, make a bet with the AMA; if obesity doesn’t drop 5% and health costs don’t drop 17 great-granddaddies, the AMA can reimburse the difference and all the money paid for the tax. They can put their money where they lobby^H^H^H^H^H^H mouths are.

          • bhr says:

            I’m ok with using the money to fight obesity, but not to give it to the docs.

            There are far more important (and useful) ways to spend that money fighting obesity. Things like urban agriculture, food education, increasing the produce/healthy options in schools.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Some people hate Keystone Light, some people love it. To each his own.

      • bosozoku says:

        Pepsi MAX = Bosozoku Crack! I’m sure I contribute at least to 5% of Pepsi’s overall profit.

    • vastrightwing says:

      Just like the Cigarette taxes went to the State’s general fund the soda tax is more of the same. It’s just another tax and the money won’t go where they claim. It will go directly to the state so it can continue growing ever larger.

  2. Vox Republica says:

    I’ve offered similar proposals in the past, like using money from potting soil taxes to fight deer, and taffy taxes used to fight tooth decay. Oh, wait, how about we have our school supplies taxes fight a proxy war against absentee parenting while Germany’s prepared food excise taxes invade from the south? This should minimize collateral damage.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      This is bullshit. One, I don’t trust the AMA. Two, I oppose new taxes. Three, it will make no damn difference.

  3. Schildkrote says:

    Oh god, this one’s going to be a magnet for the fat acceptance set. Watch out for earthquakes.

  4. dolemite says:

    “penny per ounce”. 16 ounce soda = 16 cent increase. Not exactly negligible.

    Personally, I don’t drink beer or wine. But I hear they have a lot of calories, and people seem to enjoy them. Sometimes people do silly things while drinking them like get in accidents or fights, resulting in medical care, pregnancies, in addition to beer guts and general flabbiness that can occur. Due to the double whammy of some people getting fat and some people doing dangerous things while drinking alcohol, I think everyone should have to pay for the negligence of the few people that can’t control their binge drinking. 5 cents per ounce tax for all alcohol!

    • ZenListener says:

      I kind of agree, but I think public consumption of alcohol should be banned. Only drink in your home.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Alcohol is already taxed pretty heavily. Have you ever bought duty-free liquor? Fagettaboutit!

      • dolemite says:

        People are still drinking it though. MOAR TAXES! We have to mold society into the vision of perfection!

  5. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    How, exactly, is the government supposed to ‘fight’ obesity using these tax revenues?

    There are a few things that can be done, like making gym memberships tax exempt, or make them tax-deductable.

    I love that the county government here has created a very nice park system with several paved trails, located smack in the middle of several office complexes. At lunchtime, it’s very easy to go grab a 40-minute walk, and there are hundreds of people out there taking advantage.

    If there’s a way to make fresh produce more readily and less expensive, that should be explored.

    But don’t start taking away freedoms. That’s the coward’s way out.

    • dolemite says:

      If this went to actual public health incentives like helping pay for gym memberships, public nutritionists, tax breaks for buying health equipment, etc…I actually wouldn’t be against taxing food that is terrible for us. Instead, this would be used for pork projects that have zero impact on anything.

      • chefboyardee says:

        are you implying that pork is terrible for me?!

        you’ll have to pry my ham steaks and bacon from my from my cold dead hands!

        • highfructosepornsyrup says:

          No prying necessary as your hand will be coated in delicious saturated fat.

    • highfructosepornsyrup says:

      Like using sugar(s) taxes to subsidize vegetable farmers?

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Despite what anyone says about the subject, I personally would buy a hell of a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables if they were subsidized to compete with cheaper and more convenient foods.

  6. coffee100 says:

    No doubt there will be a “War on Fatass”

  7. StarKillerX says:

    “reasing taxes on sweetened beverages to a penny per ounce would reduce obesity rates by 5 percent and cut medical costs by $17 billion within a decade, the AMA Council on Science and Public Health said in its report.”

    Wow, talk about pulling numbers out of your ass.

    Prices of these drinks have increased, at least locally, 20-40 cents in the last 5-6 years, so following their logic obesity should have decreased 5-10% during that time, but of course they are talking out of their asses.

    Wonder where the AMA would stand on a 1% gross reciepts tax on doctors to help pay for increase policing wrongful billing by medical professionals? Afterall this would save money as well, maybe it could be packaged with your soda tax?

  8. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Anything the AMA says is suspect because of their political activism. I wish they would stick to actual medical issues. For example, this:

    But the group did note that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is strongly and consistently linked with increased body weight and health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

    Ok great – that’s good info. Now keep your tax talk to yourself.

  9. ZenListener says:

    I applaud this. We need more things taxed. Or outlawed.

  10. crispyduck13 says:

    Increasing taxes on sweetened beverages to a penny per ounce would reduce obesity rates by 5 percent…

    Seriously, how the hell do you calculate such a thing? The variables involved make this figure completely arbitrary.

  11. redskull says:

    If the coming War On Fat goes as well as the War On Drugs, everything will be just fine.

    When I look around me these days and see nothing but 300 and 400 pounders everywhere I look, I realize that there’s definitely a problem and something needs to be done about it. Unfortunately I don’t know what it could be, short of the government stepping in and outlawing all foods except kale.

    • dolemite says:

      What needs to be done:

      Reorganizing how we distribute food subsidies in our country. Ever wonder why every food you buy now is loaded with HFCS? Corn! Corn subsidies! Lobbyists have restructured how food in our country is handled. This is why a double cheeseburger is .99 and a salad is $6.

      Access to fitness facilities: usually reserved for people that have $50 a month to spend on it.

      Nutritionists: A tiny portion of the population has any idea about nutrition and fitness.

      This isn’t an issue of “people are stupid, and fat”. It’s an issue of “I’m poor, and I can buy more food that fills me up but is bad for me, than good food that only temporarily fills me up.” Soda is only part of the equation.

      Outlawing/taxing and punishing people for eating badly will only tax the poor while doing nothing to battle their poor health and fitness.

      • MaytagRepairman says:

        Corn subsidies and soda taxes make no sense to me. Using tax money to help somebody produce what I’m being taxed not to consume so much of? Makes sense to the farmer. Makes sense to the AMA. Doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, same with tobacco.

        • Nikephoros says:

          Competing taxes and subsidies that seem (are) contradictory is the result of two congressmen each successfully bringing home the pork to their constituent lobbies. Kinda like when supposedly anti-war Democrats will fight to the figurative death to keep the contract for building nuclear submarines in their district.

      • StarKillerX says:

        “This isn’t an issue of “people are stupid, and fat”. It’s an issue of “I’m poor, and I can buy more food that fills me up but is bad for me, than good food that only temporarily fills me up.” Soda is only part of the equation.”

        I disagree, stop buy any convenience store in area with a large number of welfare recipients and unless WNY is somehow totally different then the rest of the country, I’d bet that you’ll see at least a couple people using foodstamp cards to buy energy drinks, chips and candy, or if actual food they are buying a can of soup for $3 that can be bought for $0.50 a block away.

        At grocery stores, at least around here, it’s rare to see someone with a benifit card using coupons, buying bulk or even selecting store brand items.It’s all brand names, individually packaged goods.

  12. George4478 says:

    >>AMA Says Money From Soda Taxes Should Be Used To Fight Obesity

    But it won’t. It’ll be used for whatever pet projects the current administration has its eye on.

    The mayor have a 15-year old daughter in the local high school marching band? Then the soda tax will fund the ‘Pride In Our School’ initiative to buy new band uniforms. Or the like.

  13. Hungry Dog says:

    When will they ban spoons and forks since those are clearly instruments used to enable people to become obese?

  14. Vox Republica says:

    Serious post from me for once: this is a vehicle for a solution, not a solution in and of itself. A consumption tax, unless it raises the cost of sugary sodas to the same level of healthier alternative drinks (and it has a ways to go to catch up to even dubiously nutritive drinks, like milk, etc.), will not affect substantial consumer preference at the retail end. Further, one cannot presume price to be the primary mechanism of consumer preference, as tap water is still 100% free. The fact is: consumers like the taste and I assume the augmented belching effects of sodas and similar sugary beverages, and cost is only weakly correlative to that preference.

    Now, if the money raised from such a sin tax goes towards the subsidization of things like healthy school lunches, summer meals programs for dependent children, and similarly controlled-content mechanisms, yes, it can have a positive difference. More can be done, though. If you want to entice low-income families to eat healthier, establish graduated EBT/WIC compensation levels for progressively healthier foodstuffs: white rice gets covered less than brown; white bread is 50% to whole wheat’s 75%; buying any beverage with “punch,” “ade,” or “cocktail” in the title gets you catapulted into a ditch filled with rusty forks.

    Subsidizing gym memberships might help, but that’s going about the problem backwards: consumers are more motivated by involuntary disincentive (e.g., pay $X more for health insurance for every point of BMI you are over NIH standards of “obese”) as opposed to voluntary incentive (e.g., free tote bag for signing up at Bob’s Discount Kinetic Activity Wondermart and Scrap Metal Wholesalers).

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      How about using it to subsidize fresh fruits and veggies? I would welcome that. Buying those things almost breaks the bank for us.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Tap water may be ‘free’ but in many places is not an option. I have lived in several places in the USA where the water didn’t meet federal safety requirements, but also was horrid. A green, bacteria filled, sewer gas smelling liquid that tingles your fillings with its metallic component is not a viable option to a yummy soft drink. At least people can buy bottled water now but that is not ‘free’ by any means.

  15. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Every time I hear the phrase “fight obesity” I imagine myself lumbering down the street while skinny people poke me with pointy sticks in order to defend their village.

  16. IrwinJacobs says:

    Just what we need, more government, more taxes, more bureaucracy.

    It’s the hacks at the AMA and the stooges at in the government that are partially to blame for the obesity epidemic, with their grain-laden food pyramid and low-fat medical advice that has Americans wallowing like farm animals between meals that are spaced two-hours apart, ensuring that our glucose levels are in the triple digits at all times.

    Low-fat, high grain diets produce fat diabetics. Medical science used to know this but over the past half century or so most physicians and nutritional “experts” have collectively shoved their heads into their asses.

  17. Cerne says:

    Or we could just live in a free society where we let adults make their own choices.

    • Torgonius wants an edit button says:


      Please wait outside your dwelling for some nice people to take you to the Hillary R Clinton Re-Education Center at Guantanmo Bay. There, you will be taught how to properly bend to the will of the Nanny State.

  18. gman863 says:

    Enough. It’s time to start shoving two liter bottles of Mountain Dew up the asses of Michael Bloomberg and the AMA.

  19. Ouze says:

    Sure buddy, that’s what will happen. Remember when they said the same stuff about the tobacco settlement – how the money would be used to fight cancer? Right.

  20. Cor Aquilonis says:

    Funny, no soda tax money is helping me fight obesity. I’m doing it mostly my-own-self with a nutritious, calorie-and-carb-controlled diet and diligent exercise. I also don’t really see how the tax would help, since people who drink chemical-laden-dilute-HFCS-swill (i.e. soda) aren’t really price conscious (if they were they’d drink tap water.) Sure, I’d like help in my struggle, but I don’t think the proposed plan would do the job.

    Now, if we made gym memberships payable from an HSA and made healthy foods tax expempt somehow… well, I’m not even sure that would work. We can’t even get people to agree on what is or is not healthy food, and what is or is not a successful method of losing weight.

  21. dush says:

    So the less people drink soda the less money there is to fight obesity. That’s just stupid planning.

  22. Draw2much says:

    I’ve long suspected the “problem of obesity” might be more due to STRESS (supposedly 70% to 95% of doctor visits in the US are due to stress) than anything else. One of the results of stress is over eating. It can also lead to sleep problems, which also causes weight gain. Paired with that, it’s also linked to depression and chronic tiredness. If you’re tired or sad all the time it’s very difficult to care about your weight. (Other than making you feel miserable about yourself.)

    As far as I’m concerned we’re coming at obesity from the wrong end. We’re trying to fix it like it’s the problem, when it’s actually just a symptom of something else. You can educate and tax people until you’re blue in the face, but if the underlying cause of obesity isn’t fixed, it won’t go away. (And if stress is the primary factor, good luck! That’s a much harder problem to fix than obesity. Especially if its, as I suspect, tied into people being overworked, underpaid, and not getting enough time off.)

  23. DragonThermo says:

    What does the AMA suggest as a way to “fight obesity”? Hire people to go around and slap jelly donuts out of the hands of fat people?

    I guarantee you that the money will be used for anything and everything BUT “fighting obesity”.

    Giving money to the government is like giving the car keys and a fifth of tequila to a teenager.

    If the government wants to “fight obesity”, then stop spending money on stupid stuff. Government has waaaaay too much taxpayers’ money as it is. The problem is that they spend it like a drunk teenager in a Buick.