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Dr. Barb Frankowski tells lawmakers that a sugary drink tax could make the healthy choice the easy choice!

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.

 

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Urge Senators to Lift the Cap on Charitable Donations!

Please tell Senate Finance Committee members that limiting the amount of funds non-profit organizations can raise in Vermont to fund their missions is the wrong way to raise revenue.

The Vermont House has passed legislation that would cap itemized deductions at 2.5 percent of the state standard deduction ($15,500/individual; $31,000/couple). The bill, which reportedly raises $33.2 million, is now before the Senate Finance Committee. Please contact members of the Senate finance Committee at http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/25 and tell them that such a cap could have an adverse effect on the good work the AHA is doing in Vermont.

In a response to Vermont’s non-profit community recently Senate Finance Committee Chair Tim Ashe stated the following, “…one thing is clear – Vermont’s tax system is in need of change. We currently tax the things that are not growing, and we do not tax the things that are growing. I am in no jag whatsoever to merely raise new taxes to “get us through this year.” We really do need a long-term approach so that both government and our non-profit partners have stable funding for planning and operational purposes.”

We agree. Please tell committee members that implementing excise taxes on tobacco and sugary drinks could raise significant revenue for the state but more importantly, deter unhealthy behaviors that lead to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer that are costing the state millions.

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Urge Lawmakers to Support Health Care Bill and Advance Legislation to Address Tobacco and Obesity!

As legislators currently weigh options to fund health care priorities in Vermont, it makes sense to look at funding sources that target health care problems. The Vermont House will be voting on legislation this week to increase the tobacco tax and implement an excise tax on sugary drinks. Urge them to support the measure by clicking the following link! https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

While the tax levels in the bill aren't as high as we'd like to improve public health, they are a start, and the bill needs to move ahead so we can improve it in the Senate or conference committee.

Vermont is spending a half a billion dollars each year treating chronic diseases caused by obesity and tobacco – half a billion! While legislative money committees are charged with raising revenue to meet state fiscal needs, they are also charged with doing what’s in the best interest of Vermonters, and that means doing what’s most helpful for the long-term as well.

Science shows a 10% increase in the price of tobacco and sugary drinks would have a public health benefit, decreasing adult smoking by 3-5%, youth smoking by 7% and sugary drink consumption by 8%.

No other revenue option on the table would have as substantial a health impact. The closer we can get to a $1.25 tax on tobacco and a penny an ounce on sugary drinks, the bigger the health impact for Vermonters.

Let your legislators know financial decisions should not be based solely on balancing the budget but also on making wise decisions that will serve the public best now, and our children for years to come.

Contact your legislator at http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2016 or call them at 1-800-322-5616 and urge them to support significant cigarette and sugary drink excise taxes to help reduce the burden of chronic disease in Vermont.

The House Health Care Bill that will be voted on this week includes a $0.25 tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and a half cent excise tax on sugary drinks. Click on the following link to urge representatives to vote in favor of this bill.  https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

Then work with us once the bill moves to the Senate to let lawmakers know higher tobacco and sugary drink taxes can provide a one-two punch to smoking an obesity in Vermont.

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Getting Some Traction on the Sugary Drink Tax!

Legislators left Montpelier for their March break with interest hanging on the sugary drink tax. The House Health Care Committee took testimony on the tax as a possible source of revenue for health care reform measures and will likely vote on the tax when they return on March 10th. Read more here. http://digital.vpr.net/post/house-committee-eyes-soda-tax-health-care-reforms 

The House Ways and Means Committee will also focus on the tax with a hearing slated for March 11th.  Lawmakers are looking at closing a $112 million budget gap and with a list of $29 million in potential budget cuts presented recently, some lawmakers are also interested in new sources of revenue.  

The American Heart Association and the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont want to implement a 2 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and use a portion of the revenue for obesity prevention efforts and greater access to health care for underserved Vermonters. 

A new poll released by VTDigger shows Vermonters agree. 57% said they would support a tax on sugary drinks to fund health care for low income Vermonters. Editors from newspapers across Vermont also agree it makes sense. The St Albans Messenger, Addison Independent, Rutland Herald, Times Argus, Brattleboro Reformer and County Courier have all written editorials urging lawmakers to pass the tax this session. Check out the following editorial! http://www.reformer.com/opinion/ci_27585726/our-opinion-sugary-drinks-tax-heck-out-them 

With both obesity rates and health care costs climbing, the sugary drink tax should be a priority for Vermont lawmakers. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health notes in its State of Obesity report for Vermont that Vermont’s current 38,031 cases of heart disease could sky-rocket to 190,617 by 2030 if we continue on our current trend. A two cent tax on sugary drinks and a commitment to prevention makes more sense to us. 

Urge Vermont lawmakers to support prevention efforts such as this to reduce chronic diseases in Vermont. Click on the following to take action:

https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx 

And help us spread the word by “liking” the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont Facebook page and sharing the benefits about a sugary drink tax on your social media today!

https://www.facebook.com/HealthierVT

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Cutting Funding for Tobacco Prevention is a Step Backwards

Despite the historic successes of Vermont’s tobacco control program, tobacco use is still the number one preventable cause of death and disease. While we’ve made great headway, there is more work that needs to be done and the program is at risk. 

The Governor’s proposed budget would cut nearly $245,000 this coming year, reducing funds to the health department and eliminating funding for the independent Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board. 

This cut in prevention funding will only move Vermont backwards in the state’s efforts to control skyrocketing healthcare costs. Vermont currently spends $348 million each year on tobacco-attributable health care expenses.

Tobacco use still claims the lives of 1,000 Vermonters annually.  400 children become new daily smokers each year and 10,000 Vermont children currently alive today will die prematurely from smoking. We have populations where smoking rates are high – over 20% of Vermont’s college-age youth smoke and smoking rates for those with low incomes or serious mental illness are at or above 30%.

Help us urge Vermont lawmakers and the Governor to maintain funding for the tobacco program to reduce these numbers and support a significant increase in the tobacco tax – proven measures that will reduce smoking in Vermont. Click the link below to take action today!

https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

 

 

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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. www.healthiervt.org
  • 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 Tina.Zuk@heart.org 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.

https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

 

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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: www.healthiervt.org.

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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: https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

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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 http://allianceforahealthiervt.org/ to learn more and sign our resolution.

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