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New crusader in fight to reduce consumption of sugar drinks

The Alliance for a Healthier Vermont is poised to fight for a 2 cent per ounce tax on sugar-added drinks to fight obesity in Vermont. And our coalition has an experienced leader joining the fight.

Anthony Iarrapino will be the sugar sweetened beverage tax campaign coordinator.  He has served previously as one of the leading environmental advocates in the state as the Senior Attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. Over his 8 years at CLF- his expertise has included lobbying, grassroots organizing and mobilizing, media outreach, coalition building, campaign planning and implementation.

When coming on board, Anthony said, "In my career as an environmental attorney, I gained substantial experience successfully fighting for precedent-setting policies to protect and improve public health conditions in the face of tough opposition from industry. With strong support from the American Heart Association and a broad coalition of Vermont's other public health organizations, I am excited to set another important precedent by helping Vermont become the first state to tax sugary drinks as a means of curbing their overconsumption, leveling the playing field for healthier alternatives, and reducing obesity and related illnesses."

Join us in welcoming Anthony to our team!

Photo courtesy of Vermont Public Radio.

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Burlington event focuses on sugar's impact on cardiovascular disease and health

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and 150 calories of 9 for teaspoons for men. But the reality is people are consuming far more. And sugary drinks are the primary source of added sugars in American diets.

Learn more about the impact of sugar on your health, including sugary drinks, from a local and national expert.

AHA volunteer and University of Vermont Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Pediatrics Rachel Johnson, R.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., will be speaking about sugar’s impact on health at Community Medical School at the UVM College of Medicine in Burlington on October 7th at 6 pm. The event, which takes place in Carpenter Auditorium in the Given Building, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 802-847-2886.

The following are excerpts from Professor Johnson’s February 2013 testimony to the Vermont legislature about sugary drinks and their impact on health.

On average Americans consume 22 teaspoons - or 352 calories - of added sugars a day, the equivalent of about 2, 12 ounce soft drinks. Teens (age 12-17 years) and children (age 6 – 11 years) average 17 percent of their total calorie intake per day from added sugars.

The majority of Americans’ added sugars intake comes from sugar-sweetened beverages – soft drinks, energy drinks, sport drinks and fruit drinks account for about half of our added sugars intake. Regular calorie soft drinks are the NUMBER ONE single source of calories in the US diet.  This means that nutrient-void, empty-calorie soft drinks contribute more calories than any other food and beverage consumed by Americans. 

A systematic literature review published in 2010, concluded that “all lines of evidence consistently support the conclusion that the consumption of SSBs has contributed to the obesity epidemic.” 

There has been a proliferation of public health campaigns designed to limit Americans’ SSB consumption. 

Why do these recent public health interventions solely target SSBs and not foods like candy, cookies, cakes or other sugary treats? One primary reason is because energy consumed as a beverage is believed to be less satiating than energy consumed as solid food, and the body does not adjust for the liquid intake. According to the American Public Health Association’s policy statement on SSBs they “trick” the body’s food regulatory system and add to total energy intake rather than displacing other sources of calories. Another reason, also pointed out in the APHA’s statement, is that “food is essential to life, but SSBs are not. SSBs are a food-like substance that contribute only empty, nutrient void calories to the diet and exacerbate many chronic health problems.” Lastly, unlike food, there are many beverage options that have no-calories or are low in calories. 

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Summer is Sweet Enough Without Sugary Drinks

Sugar sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Consumption of these drinks has increased 500% in the last fifty years!

It’s no wonder we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic that’s responsible for 21% of all health care costs.

Join our fight to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.  Summer is a great time to start. Begin at home, then make a pledge to help spread the word. Choose one of the options below or come up with your own idea. But take action!

  • Share your story with our Government Relations Director concerning how sugary drinks have negatively impact your life or the life of a patient, friend or family member.
  • Write a letter to your local paper saying a tax on sugary drinks could help reduce obesity.
  • Ask a local business to offer more healthy drink options.
  • Ask your kids’ summer camp to encourage parents to only pack water and discourage fruit drinks and sports drinks.
  • Ask community leaders to improve water quality in parks and schools.
  • Ask your dentist to talk to all his/her patients about the effects of sugary drinks.
  • Serve or bring no-sugar drinks to your next community event.
  • Tell other parents and caregivers about how much sugar is in sports drinks, juice drinks and sodas and why you choose healthy drinks.

The American Heart Association is working together with the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont to tackle obesity and sugary drinks in Vermont. Learn more by visiting:

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We need your help in fighting obesity!

We need your help in our effort to provide Vermonters more places to recreate. Legislation which would give schools protection from liability to open their facilities to the community for recreational use has stalled. Though we had some amazing testimony from supporters before the House Education Committee recently, the committee needs to hear from more Vermonters who want this legislation and schools whose concerns over liability may be preventing them from opening their doors to the community.

Here are some key facts. Please write letters to your local papers about this important issue!

  • This legislation provides schools with a tool to open more recreational facilities to Vermonters and help Vermont reduce increasing obesity rates.
  • It would remove barriers and perceived barriers for schools to open their buildings and grounds to the community for recreational purposes.
  • Vermont schools want to be a community resource and have noted liability as one of their top concerns with opening their facilities to the public for recreation.
  • Vermont wouldn’t be alone in addressing this issue – At least 13 states have passed legislation that meets AHA standards. 6 others are working to strengthen their laws.

We can help to address this by opening our schools’ facilities and grounds to communities for recreational activities and giving them the resources to do it by:

  • Providing access to recreational facilities is critical for helping people be more active.
  • School facilities can be an excellent resource for recreation and exercise where there is limited availability or private options are too expensive.
  • Research shows that people who are able to easily access recreational facilities exercise 38% more than those without easy access.
  • Having access to parks and recreational facilities is associated with lower body mass index among children and increased physical activity among adults.
  • Vermont data shows there are significant disparities in access to parks and recreational facilities across Vermont.
  • Franklin County, has a rate of 4 recreational facilities per 100,000 people. It also has a high rate of physical inactive adults – 25% get no physical activity and 29% are obese.
  • In comparison, Washington County has a rate of 18 recreational facilities per 100,000 people. Rates of physical inactivity and adult obesity are comparatively lower --18% of adults get no physical activity and 22% of adults are obese.
  • Providing schools liability protection to open their facilities to the public for recreation will help to level the playing field.
  • Schools can offer a variety of safe facilities, including running tracks, pools, gymnasiums, fitness rooms, and playgrounds for Vermonters of all ages to use at little or no cost.

Click on the link below to take action on our alert:

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Volunteer Ed Adrian Argues for Shared Use Legislation

Burlington Attorney Ed Adrian rallied behind the American Heart Association's effort to pass legislation providing schools with greater liability protection to open their buildings to the community for recreational purposes. Ed testified before the House Education Committee this month telling committee members its not unusual for Vermont to pass legislation providing immunity to a certain group when it benefits the greater good, especially for health. He noted that while some schools may incur costs related to increased use of their facilities, Vermonters overall could benefit from decreased health care spending as we reduce reduce obesity rates via increased physical activity.

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Vermont principals support community use of schools - but are also concerned about liability

The American Heart Association supports legislation providing Vermont schools with greater protection from liability to encourage schools to open their buildings and grounds to the public for recreational use during non-school hours. Research shows people are 38% more likely to exercise when they have parks or creational facilities nearby.

93 Vermont principals who responded to our survey on the issue between October and January supported community recreational use of schools and liability was their greatest concern. See the survey results below. 


Are you in general supportive of community use of your recreation facilities and grounds during non-school hours as a way of providing an opportunity for your community to live a healthy lifestyle?

 Yes – 98.89%

No – 3.33%

Please prioritize what concerns you may have from the list below regarding allowing school building and grounds use after hours? 

  •  Incurring unplanned costs as a result of others using the building – 14.13%
  • Liability for the school if someone is hurt – 27.17%
  • Supervision – 26.09%
  • Damage to the school building – 5.43%
  • Alcohol or drug use on the school premises – 1.09%
  • Safety of users – 9.78%
  • Condition building is left following the activity – 7.61%
  • Disruption of the regular school schedule – 2.17%
  • I don't think about any of these – 6.52%

Please let us know if your school is concerned about this issue. Email

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Tobacco trust fund is needed

Fifty years after the surgeon general first told Americans that smoking causes disease and death, the American Heart Association and other public health advocacy groups have announced bold new goals to end the tobacco epidemic for good, including reducing adult tobacco use to 10 percent.

As the president-elect of the Vermont board of the American Heart Association, and as a nurse, I support these goals and want to urge the Legislature and administration to restore the tobacco trust fund.

This funding is sorely needed or the tobacco control program will be at risk. The trust fund is nearly empty, and we’ll soon lose $10 million to $14 million in tobacco settlement dollars that Vermont has been receiving annually for its role in the settlement with the tobacco industry.

We need to make a long-term and serious commitment to reduce tobacco use in Vermont — providing help for smokers to quit and messaging that will prevent kids from ever taking up the deadly habit. Reinvesting in the tobacco trust fund will help meet the goal of legislators who created the fund in 1999 to ensure we could fight tobacco for years to come.

With smoking costing $233 million in health care spending each year — $72 million of which is Medicaid expenditures directly related to smoking — developing a long-term plan to ensure the health of Vermont’s tobacco control program is a must.

I think it’s more than a coincidence that Vermont’s $8 million settlement with R.J. Reynolds for the company’s deceptive advertising of its Eclipse cigarette happened when it did. This money shouldn’t be looked at as gravy to patch budget holes, but instead should be placed in the trust fund to uphold the promise we made to smokers that we would help them quit and provide the resources to do it.

Julie Morse



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Vermont legislative session begins!

January 7th kicked off the first day of Vermont's legislative session.  Our work to pass legislation fighting heart disease and stroke kicks into full gear.

  • AHA legislative reception – A reminder that our legislative reception will be held February 5th from 4:30-5:30pm at the Cedar Creek Room at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier.  Wine an appetizers will be served and we will focus on two of our advocacy issues: shared use legislation that allows schools greater liability protection to open their facilities to the public for recreational activity during non-school hours and funding for the tobacco trust fund and tobacco program.  Please come and talk with your legislators and support our priorities. RSVP to if you haven’t or know other volunteers who would like to attend.

  • Session begins with some good news on SSB  tax– Governor Shumlin addressed both health committees this morning for the first time regarding health care reform efforts. The Governor promoted his Single Payer Health Care proposal. During the questioning by committee members, Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas noted that the Governor was opposed to a sugar sweetened beverage tax as a health care financing measure last session. But the Governor responded that “everything is fair game and everything is on the table.” So, let’s keep pushing. Photo of Governor commenting is attached.


  •  Tobacco $ should go to tobacco trust fund -- With under $2 million left in its balance (which is expected to be used up this year), the tobacco trust fund needs to be restored for the long-term health of Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program and we’ll be pushing lawmakers to do just that. It was announced this week that Vermont will be receiving $8.3 million in civil penalties from RJ Reynolds for false claims about its Eclipse cigarette. We will be urging the legislature and Administration to place at least a portion of these funds into the tobacco trust fund.


  • Welcome two new AHA advocacy committee members – Doctors Patrick Hohl and John Hughes!  Patrick Hohl DO, MPH, is Chief Medical Resident at the University of Vermont / Fletcher Allen Health Care. John Hughes is a longtime anti-tobacco advocate, physician and researcher at UVM who has previously chaired Vermont’s Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board.

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Where did 2013 go?

Wow! Where did 2013 go? As we celebrate all we did this year, I find myself once again thinking about New Year resolutions.  The perennial favorites are there….eat better, get more exercise, save more money…but these goals are all centered on making my life better.  What if for 2014 we all put more focus on our community goals. Goals that will make life better not just for us, but for our communities as a whole

How about…

  • CPR as a Graduation Requirement
  • Policies fighting Childhood Obesity
  • Pulse Ox Screening for Every Newborn
  • Quality Daily Physical Education for all Students
  • Better Systems of Stroke Care
  • Improved AED Access

That’s just a few. We all live in different places and will have different goals, but we can make them all come true together.

Thank you for all that you do as a You’re the Cure advocate.  Without you we would never be making the progress we are against heart disease and stroke.

And I am excited to see what we can accomplish as a team in 2014!

Heart Disease and Stroke. You’re the Cure.

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