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Editorial: Sugary Drinks Pose Health Risk for Kids

The Santa Fe City Council voted on an ordinance sending a sugary-drinks tax to fund early childhood education programs to a vote of the people in May. 

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Consuming drinks with added sugars poses a real health risk to kids. Sugary drinks are the single leading source of added sugars in the American diet and associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.

The American Heart Association advocates that children over the age of 2 limit their sugary-drink intake to no more than one 8-ounce sugary drink a week. Unfortunately, children today are consuming as much as 10 times that amount. Additionally, children in low-income families consume 21/2 times more than their peers in higher-income households, in part because of aggressive marketing tactics by the beverage industry.

Cities and states across the country support important programs like clean drinking water in schools, walking trails and bike paths, and universal pre-K. Sugary-drinks taxes create much-needed revenue for these initiatives. Pre-K for Santa Fe will ensure that all of Santa Fe’s 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten so they can begin kindergarten better prepared to learn and have a healthy start in life.

A growing number of cities have adopted sugary-drinks taxes — including Boulder, Colo.; San Francisco; Oakland, Calif.; Albany, N.Y.; Berkeley, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cook County, Illinois; and the Navajo Nation. The movement isn’t limited to the United States. Many countries, including Mexico, France, Ireland, Hungary and the United Kingdom all have enacted sugary-drinks taxes as well.

Mexico passed its measure less than three years ago, and a recent study shows great impact. The study examined the first-year impact on beverage volume sales in Mexico. Findings from the implementation of the tax reported that a tax of one peso per liter was associated with a lower volume of sugary drinks purchased by a significant amount. Additionally, the tax has led to a higher volume of healthier drinks purchased, specifically bottled water, and saw the greatest impact among households at the lowest income level.

The American Heart Association, Pre-K for Santa Fe and many other partners would like to encourage the city of Santa Fe to be a leader in this effort to reduce the rate of chronic illnesses and improve the health of Santa Fe kids.

Please join me in taking action by visiting www.yourethecure.org/show_pre-k_some_love to learn how you can support initiatives aimed at reducing consumption of sugary drinks.

Dr. Abinash Achrekar is a cardiologist at The University of New Mexico and board president of the American Heart Association in New Mexico.

*Article courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican, March 11, 2017.

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