Bronx Neighborhoods Targeted by Beverage Lobby for Tax Protest Would Benefit Most from Reducing Sugary Drink Consumption: State Health Commissioner

Bronx Has City's Highest Obesity Rate, Highest Individual Consumption of Sugary Drinks

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 30, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today expressed shock that the beverage lobby would host protests against the proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax in Bronx neighborhoods that would benefit the most from reduced consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks.

Referring to an anti-tax petition drive planned for today on Ryer Avenue in the Bronx by New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, a group that receives financial support from the beverage lobby, Commissioner Daines said:

"The beverage lobby has the audacity to bring their fight against the sugary beverage tax to a borough that has the city's highest obesity rate and highest rates of sugary beverage consumption. In the Bronx 68 percent of adults are obese or overweight and have high rates of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases. A solid body of research has shown that sodas and other sugary beverages are the food group most strongly linked to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. A tax on these beverages would send a price signal to consumers to choose lower-cost, healthier alternatives such as water, low-fat milk and diet soda. In the Bronx and in communities across the state, this will lead to reduced rates of obesity and obesity-related conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and asthma."

As a physician who practiced medicine in the Bronx for over 20 years, Dr. Daines said he personally witnessed the negative impact that obesity has had on the lives and health of Bronx residents.

"As the New York Times pointed out in a March 12th article, the South Bronx has the most severe hunger-related problems of any area in the nation, and yet it also has one of the highest rates of obesity as well as the highest rate of consumption of sugary beverages in New York City," said Dr. Daines. "Research shows there is a direct link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity rates, and it's time to do something about it. It's time to put the public's health first and enact a penny-per-ounce sugary beverage tax that public health leaders in New York and across the nation agree will help reduce obesity."

The New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes announced they planned to hold two anti-tax petition drives this week in Bronx neighborhoods: today in Fordham-Bronx Park, where 62.2 percent of adults are obeseor overweight; and Wednesday in South Bronx, where 71.3 percent of adults are obese or overweight, compared with the overall New York City rate of 57.9 percent. The percentage of adults from the two neighborhoods who consume more than one sugar-sweetened drinks a day is 40 percent in the Fordham-Bronx Park and 47 percent in the South Bronx, which tops the city average of 33 percent.

Some 11 percent of Bronx residents have been diagnosed with diabetes, an obesity-related disease that can lead to heart attacks, blindness, gangrene and amputation. Hospitalization rates for diabetes in the two Bronx neighborhoods greatly exceed the state rate of 213.7 hospitalizations per 10,000 residents. In the Fordham-Bronx Park neighborhood, there are 432.2 diabetes hospitalizations for every 10,000 residents, more than double the state rate; in the South Bronx, there are 620.2 diabetes hospitalizations for every 10,000 residents, nearly three times the state average.

The penny-per-ounce tax would be applied to drinks that have more than 10 calories per 8 ounces and contain less than 70 percent fruit juice. The tax is widely supported by public health and health care organizations in the Bronx and across the state, including Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, Montefiore Medical Center, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Medical Society of the State of New York, the American Academy of Pediatrics District II, and the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA).

With the estimated $1 billion annual proceeds of the tax earmarked for public health and health care services, GNYHA estimates that failure to enact the sugar-sweetened beverage tax could result in the loss of 16,700 health care jobs in New York City alone.

New York State currently spends nearly $8 billion a year to treat obesity-related illnesses, and lacking measures to stop and reverse the obesity epidemic, that cost is expected to quadruple by 2018. About 80 percent of that spending is paid for by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.