CHICAGO — The American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) and the American Heart Association (A.H.A.), in a March 25 joint policy statement, endorsed measures aimed at reducing children’s consumption of “sugary” drinks.
The statement, titled “Public policies to reduce sugary drink consumption in children and adolescents,” includes recommendations for excise taxes, limits on marketing to children and financial incentives for purchasing healthier beverages. It will be published in the April 2019 issue of Pediatrics.
The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and teenagers consume fewer than 10% of calories from added sugars, but data show they now consume 17% of their calories from added sugar, nearly half of which comes from drinks, the A.A.P and A.H.A. said.
“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” said Natalie D. Muth, M.D. and lead author of the statement. “On average, children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year. This is enough to fill a bathtub, and it doesn’t even include added sugar from food. As a pediatrician, I am concerned that these sweetened drinks pose real — and preventable — risks to our children’s health, including tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. We need broad public policy solutions to reduce children’s access to cheap sugary drinks.”
The A.A.P. and A.H.A. statement calls for a series of policies to reduce children’s consumption of sugary drinks — including price increases and using “lessons learned from decades of work on tobacco control efforts.”
The recommendations include:
- Governments at all levels should consider raising the price of sugary drinks, such as with an excise tax, along with an accompanying educational campaign. Tax revenues should go in part toward reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.
- Federal and state governments should support efforts to decrease sugary drink marketing to children and teens.
- Healthy drinks such as water and milk should be the default beverages on children’s menus and in vending machines, and federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthy food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks.
- Children, adolescents and their families should have ready access to credible nutrition information, including on nutrition labels, restaurant menus and advertisements.
- Hospitals should serve as models and establish policies to limit or discourage purchase of sugary drinks.
It is the first time the A.A.P. has recommended taxes on sugary drinks in a policy statement, which claimed excise taxes on sugary drinks have successfully reduced consumption in Berkeley, Calif., and Philadelphia.