Title of Proposal:

Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

On behalf of:

The Richmond Academy of Medicine

Describe the Idea or Issue:

More than two-thirds of Americans are clinically obese or overweight, and numerous medical studies indicate those individuals are at a significantly higher risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other related medical ailments. The rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Studies have shown that reducing sugary-sweetened beverages – defined by the CDC as any liquids that are sweetened with various forms of added sugars like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar and sucrose with examples including but not limited to regular soda (not sugar-free), fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars – can lead to better weight control among those who are overweight. Studies have also shown that “a modest tax on sugarsweetened beverages could both raise significant revenues and improve public health by reducing obesity.” Additionally, the AMA recognizes that taxes on beverages with added sweeteners is one means by which consumer education campaigns and other obesity-related programs could be financed in a stepwise approach to addressing the obesity epidemic. In cities where a sugar-sweetened beverage tax has been implemented, sales of sugar-sweetened drinks are falling and sales of water, unsweetened teas and milk are going up which suggests that people are substituting sugar-sweetened drinks with healthier alternatives.

Desired Outcome:

The Richmond Academy of Medicine asks the Medical Society of Virginia to support a statewide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure to help decrease obesity. Furthermore, funds raised by the tax should be used to develop effective and evidence-based approaches to addressing childhood obesity or health education.

Background/Supporting Information:

• Mexico’s sugar tax leads to fall in consumption for second year running

• Obesity-related health care spending on the rise, study finds Advisory Board Daily Briefing

• Soda Tax in Berkeley – Does Taxing Sugar Really Work, Time article

• Time Article on Taxing Soda Background information can be found on pages 71-84 of appendix


As physicians, we more than anyone, know the ravages of obesity. Statistically the consumption of sugared beverages is one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic. Similar to tobacco taxes, placing a tax on sugared beverages accomplishes several goals. 1) It places a disincentive to purchase the beverages. 2) By implementing the tax, it places a spotlight on the detriment of drinking those beverages and acts as an educational tool. 3) The revenue generated can be used to support healthy eating education. Many cities have implemented this tax. The long term results are not in yet but they are encouraging.

Similar concerns about sugar/soda tax that I expressed with tobacco. I don't like raising taxes. I don't think doctors know enough about how taxation influences behaviors in different markets to dictte to government. Doctors, being pretty smart, think they're smart about everything. The jury is out on the efficacy and the overall social effect (just buy the stuff across state lines and bring it in by the truckload - a la cigarettes to New York). of raising these taxes.

State wants more money and says this is where they want to get it, we can come out in favor - an amicus jurae sort of scenario.

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