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Are Sugary Drinks the Tobacco of our Time?

sugarcubes soda

Summer is heating up across the country and so is the public health campaign to reduce consumption of soda, sport drinks, energy drinks, sweetened fruit drinks and sweetened coffee and tea drinks.

That's becuase the results of large-scale studies are in, and researchers have had a chance to digest them. Sugary drinks are clearly linked to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer. In the U.S., 25,000 deaths each year are associated with sugary drinks. Here’s an earlier post outlining health dangers and more sobering stats.  


In California, a bill to put warning labels on sugary drinks  recently made it through the next step in the legislative process. In New York City, the court battle over whether the city can limit the size of sugary drinks is shaping up into a debate about role and reach of public health agencies.

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times

“Obesity is certainly a public health issue,” Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city health commissioner and the board’s chairwoman, said in an interview. “The Board of Health has its origins two centuries ago, at a time when causes of death were dominated by infectious diseases. Today, the causes of death are dominated by noncommunicable disease, including the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes.”

Several judges on Wednesday cited some of the board’s historic actions, like requiring that the city’s water supply be fluoridated and enacting a first-in-the-nation ban on lead paint. But industry lawyers countered that the Board of Health had more explicit mandates to take those actions, and that the City Council should have been consulted before the soda limits were approved. The soda plan, proposed by Mr. Bloomberg in his final term as mayor, would limit the sale of many high-calorie beverages to portions of 16 ounces or less, about the size of a medium coffee.

And here’s an article about research on taxes that might be used to curb consumption of sugary drinks. One option would be to apply a tax based on calories, rather than cost.

Here in King County, 31 percent of high school students drink soda daily, similar to national rates.

Next week, we’ll take a look at local efforts to redirect our thirst to less dangerous beverages.

What your thoughts? Do you drink sweetened beverages? Do you let your kids? Is this a public health issue? What do you think our response should be—as individuals and a society—to soda-related disease?

Sound off by commenting below or email discover@pacsci.org.

Meanwhile, check out these refreshing recipes for homemade sodas and sparklers sans sugar!


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Guest Saturday, 18 April 2015