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Report Recommends Local Governments Tax 'Junk Food' And Soft Drinks

by Staff Reporter
Posted On: 9/14/2009

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WASHINGTON -- Taxes on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and drinks are among the strategies local government officials can use to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic in their communities, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.

"The research around tobacco has shown that large increases in taxes on cigarettes have been the single most effective policy to reduce tobacco use," said Mary Story, a dietitian and professor at the University of Minnesota and member of the panel that wrote the report. "A 10% increase in the price of a sugar- sweetened beverage could reduce consumption by 8% to 10%."

The Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity report, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers a list of actions that "hold the greatest potential to curb obesity rates among children," said the health experts who wrote it.

Recommendations focus on increasing access to healthy foods and opportunities for active play and exercise. They include ensuring that schools have water fountains available so students do not have to purchase packaged water from vending machines and providing incentives to eliminate outdoor ads for high- calorie, low-nutrient foods and drinks near schools. Other recommendations include requiring nutritional information on restaurant menus and imposing zoning restrictions on fast-food restaurants near schools and playgrounds.

The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council comprise the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide health policy and other advice under a congressional charter.

Additional information about the study can be found here.