Two Top Docs Urge Passage of Sugary Beverage Tax, Challenge Beverage Industry to Address Role of Soda and other Sugary Beverages in New York's Obesity Epidemic

NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 12, 2010) - New York's two top doctors – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley – flanked by the Public Health Association of NYC (PHANYC) and the deans of schools of public health, urged passage of the sugary beverage tax Friday, citing high rates of obesity and the scientific evidence identifying these beverages as the leading culprit.

Commissioner Daines challenged the beverage industry to stop unethical, predatory advertising and marketing of high-calorie sugary beverages to New York's children, especially in low-income and minority communities.

"Childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and has tripled in the state in the last 30 years. Obesity is significantly higher among low-income and most minority groups," said Commissioner Daines. "The beverage interests conveniently continue to ignore the scientific evidence linking the rising rates of obesity and diabetes to sugary beverages. The beverage industry claims that this tax is a regressive tax on the poor, but the truth is obesity is a regressive illness on the poor."

Dr. Daines, who practiced medicine in the Bronx for nearly 20 years, is asking legislators to resist the powerful beverage lobby and take "the single most effective measure" to reduce obesity and its related health problems in their districts – passing the sugary beverage tax. He is supported by a preponderance of scientific research identifying sugary beverages as the food group most strongly linked to rising rates of obesity and diabetes among children and adults. The chairmen of the Legislature's health committees – Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Thomas Duane – also support the tax.

PHANYC President Vicki Breitbart said, "The Public Health Association of NYC urges state legislators to pass the sugary beverage tax. We need to send a strong message that sugary beverages are bad for our families' health. Increasing the cost of these drinks will help us discourage our children from buying them. Revenues from the tax will support vital health programs, including obesity and diabetes prevention, in a difficult time for state and city finances."

Recent polls of New Yorkers and of New York City voters showed that they will support a penny-per-ounce tax on non-diet soft drinks if the money is used to close budget deficits or support health care. Nearly 60 organizations representing physicians, dentists, nurses, hospitals, children's advocacy and public health organizations support the tax.

"With the state deficit at more than $9 billion, we don't have money for a lot of things this year," Dr. Daines said. "But we can take this major step to resist the special interests, to protect our children and to show that New York can implement an innovative public policy to offer a healthier future for us all."