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Warning that sippy cups were one of the worst inventions ever created, Vermont pediatrician Dr. Barb Frankowski recently urged House Ways and Means Committee members to take action to tax sugary drinks to fight obesity and improve dental health.

A portion of her testimony is excerpted below:

What do I see in my office?  Children drinking sugary beverages almost all the time.  I see it in the baby’s bottles and in the toddlers’ sippy cups.  Children and adolescents come in toting 20 ounce containers of everything from colas to sweetened iced teas to Gatorade.  How have we become such a thirsty nation?

Of course, the obesity epidemic is extremely complicated, and we can’t blame it all on sugary beverages.  BUT – sugary beverages do play an extremely significant role. 

Here are some facts:

  • Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has increased 500% in the past 50 years, and is not the single largest category of caloric intake in children, surpassing milk in the late 1990s
  • A person who drinks one can (only 12 oz) of soda a day would gain 15 lbs in a year
  • Pure liquid sugar also does not “fill us up” or induce satiety, the same way that fast food (that also contains fat and protein) does. These empty calories do not make us feel full.  Therefore, there is inadequate calorie compensation - people are more likely to drink these extra calories in addition to other foods they are eating, rather than instead of these foods.

What is the burden of obesity from the medical point of view?  Well, we all know about diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  I do see some diabetes and hypertension in my pediatric practice.  But what do I see even more? I see kids who are depressed, I see kids who are bullied at school, I see kids who are truant from school because of the bullying and - they don’t want to participate in PE!

What does the research show?

  • Children who become overweight as preschoolers tend to stay overweight throughout childhood and into adolescents.  Overweight and obese adolescents tend to remain obese as adults.  Preventing obesity can be difficult, but it is MUCH easier than treating it!
  • Studies suggest that a 10% price increase for beverages through taxation would decrease consumption by about 8-10%

Why not just educate people?

  • There is NOTHING in soda that is good for you.  Do people think there is?
  • Smoking is bad for you – are there people who think it is good for them?
  • Health education and behavior change is complex – it works much better to make the healthier choice the easier (and more economical) choice.

 

Bill Duncan is a longtime volunteer with various hunger organizations in New Jersey. He regularly volunteers at a local soup kitchen and is a volunteer and board member with a food pantry in his hometown of Manalapan.

After undergoing triple bypass surgery last year, Bill wanted to expand his volunteer activities to include the American Heart Association. He read about the current efforts in New Jersey to expand Healthy Corner Store programs in the state that improve food access in underserved communities. This campaign allows him to combine his interest in ending hunger with efforts to decrease heart disease risk in our most vulnerable communities.

More than 200 teens from across Rhode Island marched on the State House as part of the 2015 Zombie Walk for Kick Butts Day on March 18th. They carried the message that tobacco and nicotine use is not for them - and Big Tobacco can't sway their choice to choose health!  A smaller group of teens met directly with legislators in a youth-legislator roundtable discussion at the State House, hosted by Rep. Art Handy. They shared their message about teen tobacco use and legislators shared with them how important their voice is in the fight for a tobacco free Rhode Island.

Many thanks to Karina Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island, for organizing this great event – and to all the local substance abuse prevention task forces and coalitions that took part and arranged for high school students from their communities to participate.  But most of all – thanks to the teen zombies for taking a stand against Big Tobacco! 

The last time I spoke to my Dad, he had decided he wanted my baby, due that winter, to call him "Granddaddy." You see, my sister and I never stopped calling him "Daddy" even into our adulthood, and he wanted to keep it that way. He never got to meet my daughter.

I remember him always doing his exercises in the evening. He did Pilates before it was cool, conscientiously kept himself slender and fit. He looked just like Tom Selleck in those Salem cigarette ads from the 70s, mustache and all. But that comparison has its problems, too. That cigarette, casually draped on his finger, its smoke mingling with the cool, fresh air from the car window, is braided through all my memories of him.

Eventually, no amount of exercise and eating habits kept him healthy. I don’t remember a time when his feet weren’t purple, and in the two years leading to his death, my sister and I noticed that even getting dressed made him winded and sweaty. He often tripped over those feet we’re sure he could barely feel. He was very private about whatever was wrong, but we knew. In the end, he didn’t die of lung cancer or heart disease. Alone in his apartment one Tuesday night in August, 2011, my Dad stumbled and fell, hit his head, and was gone.

Because his death was an "accident," my Dad won’t show up in any of the American Heart Association’s statistics, but if he had known better forty years ago, he might be my daughter’s Granddaddy today. When my Dad was a teenager, he made a choice, and his choice was purchased by a company that told him it was harmless.

I am an advocate for the American Heart Association and a member of its Maine Board of Directors. My father’s memory and my daughter’s future are why.

Kate Kearns

Owner of Black Squirrel Workshop in Scarborough, Maine

Secretary of the Maine AHA Board of Directors

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