TThe last few weeks have not been great for the soft drink industry. Recent studies have linked sugary drinks to an increased risk of death and have involved them in tumor growth. On Monday, two leading medical groups gathered evidence of the harmful effects of soda ash in the annals of scientific journals and passed them on to the public policy community, demanding that the US government help protect children from sugar-sweetened beverages.
In a joint statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have called sugary drinks a "serious threat" to children's health, saying action needs to be taken to help fight them.
More than one of their "historic" recommendations, described by themselves, recalls the historic crackdown of public health agencies against tobacco companies. Their purpose is to regulate advertising for children, to impose taxes that increase prices and to change the social context in which products are sold.
Like tobacco companies, sweet drink manufacturers are looking to attract children and teens by combining their product with celebrity, glamor and freshness.
A repression of advertising on sodas
The authors argue that teens are exposed to a lot of marketing around sugary drinks, referring to a 2012 Report from the Federal Trade Commission that, in 2009, soft drink companies spent $ 395 million on youth advertising, 97% of which was directed at teenagers. In the statement, the authors make a comparison with tobacco companies that have already attracted children in the past. A more contemporary comparison may be that of the electronic cigarette companies, which have been condemned by the FDA for marketing to teenagers.
"Like tobacco companies, sweet drink manufacturers are looking to attract children and teens by combining their product with celebrity, glamor and freshness," write the authors.
The policy recommendations argue that the government should ensure that companies sell to children more expensive by prohibiting them from deducting the costs associated with advertising as operating expenses. This recommendation is not as directly punitive as other laws, such as the Tobacco Prevention and Family Tobacco Control Act, which strictly regulates places where tobacco companies may advertise; For example, they can not announce within 300 meters of an outdoor playground. Nevertheless, the authors argue that removing this single deduction could limit 129,000 cases of obesity over a decade.
They also recommend excise taxes on added sugar that would increase the price of soda. Excise taxes are already being used on cigarettes, ranging from 0.17 cents in some states to nearly 5 dollars in others.
Recent scientific evidence corroborates their claims that the increase in the price of soda effectively limits consumption. In February, researchers publishing in the American Journal of Public Health showed that in Berkeley, California, "soda taxes" resulted in a 52% drop in soda consumption in the California city.
What the new report does not do is really explain how much the tax on soft drinks should be. The authors refer to a report from the World Health Organization suggesting that taxes should aim to increase the retail price of soda by 20% or more to actually limit consumption, but leave it to " stakeholders "to" propose a price ".
Taxes on soft drinks could be supported by the federal and state governments, they suggest. That would be a change from the municipal taxes on sweet drinks that already exist, such as Berkeley, Seattle or Philadelphia, among others.
"Social norms" around unhealthy drinks
Finally, the report emphasizes that the behavior of physicians and hospitals can affect the public's perception of soda ash and other products that have an impact on health. They write that in the '50s and' 60s, hospital visits were "conducted in smoke-filled rooms" and sometimes even hospitals sold cigarettes at vending machines and souvenir shops. These authors argue that the same thing is happening right now with sugary drinks.
Being able to buy sodas in a hospital or seeing a doctor take a Coca-Cola reinforces the idea that drinking sodas is usually both safe and crucial. Ordinary.
"As with the smoking ban, hospital leadership and health plans to eliminate the sale of sugary drinks can improve the health of their employees, increase public awareness of the contribution of sugary drinks to the public. obesity and, therefore, changing social standards for sweetened beverages, "they write.
Hospitals are only a starting point. While health facilities cut ties with sugary drinks, the authors note that "employers and leaders in other contexts" could be encouraged to do the same.
Is this really the end of soda?
This policy recommendation suggests that the time is really up for soda. At least these two medical groups believe that it is worth taking action against sugary drinks. To do this, they turn to the proven public health textbook that has helped change perceptions of smoking, especially among adolescents.
These recommendations may or may not actually be put in place – it is now up to policymakers to deal with the inevitable resistance of the food industry – but at the very least, they are one more sign to come.