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Campaign to Pass a Sugary Drink Tax Picking Up Steam! You Can Help!

Campaign Launched at Press Conference! The American Heart Association along with the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont officially launched our effort to pass a 2 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks at a Statehouse press conference on January 20th. The result? Legislators, media and Vermonters are talking about the effort!

At the press conference, Alliance for a Healthier Vermont Campaign Director Anthony Iarrapino said a portion of the $34 million in revenue from the tax could be used to fund affordable health care programs, help subsidize the purchase of healthy foods for low-income Vermonters, and increase funding to create a more comprehensive state obesity prevention program.

 “Education alone is not enough to improve health and reduce health care costs. A two-cent-per-ounce excise tax modeled on the successful tobacco tax can level the playing field for healthier beverage choices like milk and water, while also raising substantial new revenue for health care, food access, and other pressing needs,” he said.

 American Heart Association national nutrition committee member Rachel Johnson added, “Food is essential to life, but sugary drinks are not.  Sugar-loaded drinks contribute only empty, nutrient void calories to the diet and increase the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.”

 More than 30 Vermont organizations are now part of the Alliance in support of the sugary drink tax, including the state’s hospitals and the largest low income advocacy group.

 We're in the news and editors are supporting the tax! We’ve been in the news quite a bit as we continue to talk up the effort with lawmakers and media, and we’ve received editorials from the Rutland Herald, Addison Independent and St. Albans Messenger in support of the tax. Check out some of the stories and share on social media:

 You can help! If you haven’t taken action yet to support our efforts, there are many ways you can help. We can't do it without you!

  • Go to the Alliance web site and sign our resolution.
  • Urge your family and friends to get involved. Just text HEALTHYVT to 5-2-8-8-6. It’s easy!
  • Take a sugar-free selfie of you or your family drinking a healthy drink and send it to us to post and the American Heart Association and Alliance Facebook pages. Email and post on your own page as well!


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Tobacco and Obesity - A $550 Million Dollar Price Tag for Vermont

Though prevention is a lot less expensive than the treatment of chronic diseases, Vermont legislators are now considering a budget proposal from the Governor that would cut $500,000 from tobacco and obesity prevention initiatives in Vermont at the same time the State is spending $550,000,000 on health care costs to treat chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, that are caused by smoking and obesity.

Annually, Vermont spends $348 million treating tobacco-rated illnesses and another $202 million treating obesity-related diseases. We can’t expect these numbers to go down by themselves. Additional spending on prevention could help lower health care costs by reducing chronic diseases in our state.

However, the Governor’s proposed budget proposal includes more than $200,000 in cuts to Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program (including evaluation funding that ensures effective spending of state dollars) and eliminates the $300,000 currently going towards obesity prevention efforts in Vermont.

 Tobacco and obesity are definitely having an impact on Vermonters' health and their wallets.

While Vermont has successfully cut the youth smoking rate in half, tobacco use claims the lives of 1,000 Vermonters annually, 400 children become new daily smokers each year, 20.4% of Vermont's college-age youth smoke and smoking rates of low income Vermonters are 30%. the price tag for treating tobacco-related illnesses in Vermont is $348 million annually.

Obesity as well is taking its toll with over 60% of Vermont adults and 29% of Vermont children overweight or obese. The health care costs related to adult obesity related illnesses in Vermont is $202 million and this does not take into consideration the health impact of obesity on Vermont's children.

Click the following link to tell your legislators to oppose these cuts and support prevention funding to lower heart disease and stroke costs. Significantly raising the price of tobacco and sugary drinks is a good place to start.


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Dr. Niels Giddins - Fighting Obesity for the Health of Vermont Kids

This generation of kids is the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Currently, 29% of Vermont's children are overweight or obese.

Dr. Niels Giddins is a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and a board member for the American Heart Association who wants to change that.  He has joined us in the fight for a two cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks in an effort to reduce obesity in Vermont.

You'll hear his voice on Vermont airwaves and see him in local papers. And, he spoke to legislators at the American Heart Association's legislative reception this month.

Here's a portion of his statement from that event:

Simply put, most Vermont adults are overweight or obese, and our youth are catching up fast.  The adverse effects on their health are undeniable. Not only are the lengths and quality of their lives compromised, our health system is compromised due to the increasing amounts of expensive care needed to treat the various problems that result — such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

We counsel our patients that the biggest factor in weight control is the energy or calories taken IN.  What we eat and drink. Obviously the energy or calories that we expend can help balance things out, but the heart of the problem if you will is that when you take in more than is expended your weight goes up.  And if the calories are just plain carbs, with no other nutritional value, the imbalance is just that much worse.

It is with this simple equation that this tax can make the most impact.  Anything to reduce the empty calories consumed by Vermonters will make a difference.  Healthy alternatives abound and become more appealing if relatively cheaper.  This includes milk that supports our own dairy industry, and juices that supply needed fruit and vegetable-derived nutrients.  Let's not forget just plain water - one of the natural resources that many in this state have worked diligently to protect.  Our municipalities provide some of highest quality drinking water anywhere– freely available right out of the tap.

Make no mistake, this is not a ban on sugary drinks.  They're still going to be available, but in return for their negative impact on our health, this tax can provide much needed funds for our stressed healthcare system.

Finally, a word to business owners that perhaps understandably have had concerns about the impact of this tax on their livelihood.  I'd like to think that certain pharmacies that have stopped selling tobacco products have done so NOT to lose money.  The right decision helps everyone.  Healthy sells as well.  

Let’s do this.  

Learn more about the impacts of sugary drinks on obesity and our efforts to pass a tax on sugary drinks at our coalition site:

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Tobacco Tax is a Win Win

Vermont is currently spending $348 million each year to treat smoking-related illness, $72 million of which are taxpayer-funded Medicaid expenditures.  We need to do more to reduce tobacco use and this financial burden.

Increasing Vermont’s cigarette tax by $1.25 is part of the answer.  It will prevent 2,400 kids from becoming smokers and spur 2,700 adult smokers to quit.  This translates into a savings of $96 million in long-term health care costs. 

At a time when the Vermont legislature is looking for more and more ways to reduce the deficit, this is a win-win that improves the health of Vermonters while improving the state’s fiscal outlook.

Urge Vermont legislators to make tobacco prevention a priority. Take action now at:

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An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Theses famous words from Benjamin Franklin can ring true in a whole new way for Vermonters this year. Obesity has become an epidemic, and the health of our country is worse than it’s been before. But in Vermont, we can do something about it. 

A two-cent-per-ounce sugary beverage tax will set us in motion to reverse obesity, especially in children, and help those less fortunate in our state live more healthfully. Every ounce a Vermonter doesn’t drink makes that individual healthier, and every ounce they do drink helps supports programs that make all of Vermont healthier.

Given that consumption of sugary drinks in the U.S. has increased 500 percent over the last five decades and one-fifth of the weight gained by American in the last 30 years has been from sugary drinks, a two cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks may be just what we need to start taking those pounds off.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s time for Vermont to end its addiction to sugar-loaded drinks one ounce at a time. It’s time for Vermont to help our children lead healthier lives and provide them with better health care options. It’s time to move forward with the sugary beverage tax.

Go to to learn more and sign our resolution.

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Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, No Sugar Added!

Congratulations to Laural Ruggles and the Fit and Healthy Coalition at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital. They’re taking obesity seriously and have launched a “No Sugar Added” campaign.

The social marketing campaign helps educate the community about the harms of sugar-loaded drinks and benefits of drinking water.

When NVRH conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment in 2012, obesity was identified as one of the top three health priorities for the hospital service area.

Although not the only factor, research has confirmed that sugary drinks are a significant contributor to the obesity problem. So, after conducting focus groups and research on the issue, NVRH’s team decided to tackle the problem head-on with their No Sugar Added campaign targeting dads and kids 13 and under.

You can check out their great videos by clicking on the following links and please share them on your social media!

Dad 1

Dad 2

Dad 3

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Do You Live in a HEART Safe Community?

Its Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. Do you know if your community is HEART safe?

The HEART Safe program recognizes communities that meet specific criteria that help increase the potential for saving the lives of individuals who have sudden cardiac arrest through the use of CPR and increased public access to defibrillation.

 Congratulations to Stowe, Bennington and St. Johnsbury for already achieving this distinction.  Designation as a HEART Safe Community represents a coordinated effort by emergency medical services, fire departments, and police departments, as well as other various town departments, schools, and businesses that have committed to saving lives.

Talk to your local rescue and town officials and you can email the Vermont Office of Emergency Medical Services at for more information. By becoming a HEART Safe Community, your town officials, and citizens will be recognized for taking the time, and making the effort to become an invaluable link in the chain of survival.

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Medical Students Turned Advocates

Peter Evans, Christina Cahill and Lana Khuong know there is more than one way to save a life. They’ve organized CPR trainings, worked on tobacco cessation counseling protocols, coordinated cardiovascular research and fundraisers, and helped create healthy living lessons for adolescents.

They’re studying to become physicians at the University of Vermont’s Medical School, but they know that passing policy can also save lives. Lana said she was eager to become a part of a movement in which the government and civilians join to promote the well-being for all. So, all three have joined the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee.  

And we’re glad they did. Just recently, they talked about the dangers of sugary drinks and urged volunteers at the Vermont Heart Walk to sign petitions to Vermont legislators to pass legislation improving the availability and pricing of healthy food. They had a great time doing it and are eager to help us spread the word. Go team advocacy!

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Sharing Your Story Can Save Lives!

There is nothing that brings about public and legislative support for an issue more than a real-life story from someone close to home.

Your personal stories can make our advocacy issues real by putting a face to a cause. Please share your stories about how sugary drinks or obesity have impacted you, your family, students or patients. Just email me at if you have a story to share.

 Sometimes hearing just one story is all it takes to build a champion for an issue. Take, for instance Kristi Soule who shared her story at the Vermont Heart Walk.

 My life was forever changed on August 16, 2012. While out running a familiar 4 mile loop with my partner Luke, I suffered sudden cardiac arrest. I was 35 years young and there is no history of heart disease in my family. With years of CPR and AED training, Luke responded quickly. Drivers passing by retrieved an AED from a nearby business and Luke performed CPR until the emergency responders arrived. His efforts and the care I received from the medical professionals on site and at the hospital couldn't have occurred more perfectly. It was a miracle. Being with someone who knew CPR, and having an AED close by saved my life. Please help support our efforts to get more people CPR trained and make AEDs more accessible across Vermont.

 How could you say no? You wouldn't, I wouldn’t, and neither would a legislator.

 You have a story to tell, and your story can make a difference. Please help us save lives by telling your story. Email me today or give me a call at 802-578-3466 .

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Dr. Jan Carney, Vermont

The American Heart Association recently released a new position paper on e-cigarettes and reconfirmed its desire for the Food and Drug Administration to take action soon to regulate these devices.  Vermonters like the Attorney General, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont and Dr. Jan Carney, a member of the American Heart Association’s Vermont Board and Associate Dean for Public Health at UVM’s Medical School also think that’s a good idea. 

Dr. Carney recently talked about her concern that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students doubled in just one year.

Watch the whole interview here.

The AHA worked with the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont and the Vermont Legislature this past session to ban the use of e-cigs in Vermont schools and daycares.

Join us in urging your legislators to also include restrictions on e-cigarettes in Vermont’s clean indoor air laws.

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