Will Telluride be the first town in the U.S. to establish a significant sugary drink tax to combat the obesity epidemic? Battle lines are being drawn, and I am told that this initiative is controversial even in a town that has banned plastic bags!
What’s at stake is the health of our children. I say “our” even though I live in California because whatever is decided in Telluride will reverberate throughout the nation and the world.
The medical science has become clear in the last few years. Liquid sugar, as in sodas and sport drinks, is the worst culprit in the obesity epidemic. Sugary drinks are responsible for more than 40 percent of the almost 300 additional calories Americans have been packing away for the last generation. These are bad calories with no nutritional value that get rapidly converted to dangerous fats by our livers.
It’s not the fat we see which is the problem. In fact, obesity is only a marker for the problem. The problem is called Metabolic Syndrome, and it includes obesity, high blood pressure, high fats (triglycerides) circulating in the blood, low good cholesterol (HDL) and pre-diabetes.
All of these come from sugary drinks. The outcomes: diabetes with its complications of amputations, kidney failure (dialysis) and blindness; heart attacks and strokes early in life; liver failure from fatty liver disease and more.
All of the medical experts (American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, the Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) favor a Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax like the one proposed in Telluride.
The only medical voice on the Big Soda side of the debate is Dr. Pepper!
So, if we put our own health and that of our children first, we will vote for a Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax. But what of the economic concerns raised? It turns out that here, too, the Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax is a winner.
Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a medical researcher from the Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Medical Center, has shown that the passage of a local Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax would improve our health and that of our children and save us money. The medical costs a family will face from the problems associated with soda consumption are significantly higher than what the family would pay in Sugar Sweetened Beverage Taxes.
It’s hard to have the courage to be first. I salute Telluride for taking this on. Pass the Soda Tax and you will make history. Other cities, counties and states will follow your lead. You will restore years of otherwise lost life to your children and as it spreads to children everywhere.
Put the health of your children first; the future depends on it. Please join me and other health and policy experts at the Sugary Drink Tax Forum in Telluride, at the Sheridan Opera House, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10. This forum will be moderated by David Holbrooke, and is meant to give Telluride voters an opportunity to learn more and ask questions about this November’s ballot initiative.
As a Richmond, Calif. councilman, Dr. Jeff Ritterman introduced legislation to turn health research into municipal policy. Due to his efforts, Richmond’s tobacco prevention ordinances are now models for the state. Richmond's Soda Tax campaign was initiated and led by Ritterman as a policy response to the worsening childhood obesity epidemic in Richmond. Ritterman is a special guest at the Sugary Drink Tax Forum, moderated by David Holbrooke, to be held Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Sheridan Opera House at 6p.m. For more information about the local sugary drink tax, visit www.kickthecantelluride.com.