Pediatricians call for higher tax on sugary drinks to fight childhood obesity

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on lawmakers to put a higher tax on sugary drinks to help curb the childhood obesity epidemic.

“Watch what your kids eat. You are in charge of it,” said Dr. Steve Lauer, associate chair of pediatrics at the University of Kansas Health System.

What your kids eat now will affect them later, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is laying out a policy that reduces the amount of sugar that gets into kids.

“The idea behind that is that sugar is one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic in this country, and it needs to be addressed somehow,” Lauer said.

The AAP report says children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year. That’s enough to fill a bath tub, and it doesn’t even count the sugar from food.

So the organization believes the way to address the childhood obesity epidemic it is to slap a high tax on sugary drinks.

“The idea is that you make it more expensive and you put a little more skin in the game for people,” Lauer said. “They think about what they are buying for their kids to be eating and drinking.”

One reason the AAP is targeting sugary drinks and soda is because, in one 16-ounce bottle of soda, there are almost 300 calories that are consumed quickly.

“What used to be a treat is now the common thing that kids are drinking,” Lauer said.

“You don’t want to say it is silly, but maybe we do need to do something to help our young kids not struggle,” Anna Ingolsby said.

The metro mom of three said she doesn’t buy sugary drinks for them because one of her children is overweight.

“My son drinks 2 percent milk,” said Tiesha Wright, mother of a one-year-old. “He don’t get to drink pop or juice or nothing like that.”

Which is exactly what Lauer suggests to the parents of his patients.

“The drink with calories their child should have is milk or some source of calcium, and everything else they have should really be without calories,” he said. “One of the really great things for that is water.”

In the cities that have increased taxes on sugary drinks, that additional money goes toward public health and nutrition programs.

Another thing the AAP believes will help with the childhood obesity epidemic is controlling the marketing of sugary drinks to children — all of those enticing commercials that make children want the bad stuff more.



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