Breaking News
January 19, 2019 - 4.6 percent of Massachusetts residents have opioid use disorder
January 19, 2019 - New study suggests vital exhaustion as risk factor for dementia
January 19, 2019 - New antibiotic discovery heralds breakthrough in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria
January 19, 2019 - Ural Federal University scientists synthesize a group of multi-purpose fluorophores
January 19, 2019 - Researchers identify new therapeutic target in the fight against chronic liver diseases
January 19, 2019 - Preparation, characterization of Soyasapogenol B loaded onto functionalized MWCNTs
January 19, 2019 - FDA Approves Ontruzant (trastuzumab-dttb), a Biosimilar to Herceptin
January 19, 2019 - Tobacco use linked with higher use of opioids and sedatives
January 19, 2019 - Study delves deeper into developmental dyslexia
January 19, 2019 - Anti-vaccination movement one of the top health threats in 2019 says WHO
January 19, 2019 - Newly developed risk score more effective at identifying type 1 diabetes
January 19, 2019 - Highly effective protocol to prepare cannabis samples for THC/CBD analysis
January 19, 2019 - Prinston Pharmaceutical Inc. Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Irbesartan and Irbesartan HCTZ Tablets Due to Detection of a Trace Amount of Unexpected Impurity, N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) in the Products
January 19, 2019 - How does solid stress from brain tumors cause neuronal loss, neurologic dysfunction?
January 19, 2019 - $14.7 million partnership to supercharge vaccine development
January 19, 2019 - Ian Fotheringham receives Charles Tennant Memorial Lecture award
January 19, 2019 - Brain vital signs detect neurophysiological impairments in players with concussions
January 19, 2019 - Lack of job and poor housing conditions increased likelihood of people attending A&E
January 19, 2019 - Novel targeted drug delivery system improves conventional cancer treatments
January 19, 2019 - Rutgers study finds gene responsible for spread of prostate cancer
January 19, 2019 - Complications Higher Than Expected for Invasive Lung Tests
January 19, 2019 - 3-D printed implant promotes nerve cell growth to treat spinal cord injury
January 19, 2019 - Automated texts lead to improved outcomes after total knee or hip replacement surgery
January 19, 2019 - Poor cardiorespiratory fitness could increase risk of future heart attack, finds new study
January 19, 2019 - Drinking soft drinks while exercising in hot weather may increase risk of kidney disease
January 19, 2019 - Formlabs 3D prints anatomical models
January 19, 2019 - Heart-Healthy Living Also Wards Off Type 2 Diabetes
January 19, 2019 - Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media (for Parents)
January 19, 2019 - Metabolite produced by gut microbiota from pomegranates reduces inflammatory bowel disease
January 19, 2019 - Researchers examine how spray from showers and toilets expose us to disease causing bacteria
January 19, 2019 - Behavioral experiments confirm that additional neurons improve brain function
January 19, 2019 - New study compares performance of real-time infectious disease forecasting models
January 19, 2019 - Obesity can be risk factor for developing renal cell carcinoma, confirms study
January 19, 2019 - New regulation designs on cigarette packs direct smokers’ attention to health warnings
January 19, 2019 - QIAGEN receives first companion diagnostic approval in Japan
January 19, 2019 - Study explores role of Dunning-Kruger effect in anti-vaccine attitudes
January 19, 2019 - Newly identified subset of immune cells may be key to fighting chronic inflammation
January 19, 2019 - New immune response regulators discovered
January 18, 2019 - Poor blood oxygenation during sleep predicts chance of heart-related death
January 18, 2019 - First international consensus on the diagnosis and management of fibromuscular dysplasia
January 18, 2019 - Rapid resistance gene sequencing technology can hasten identification of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop artificial enzymatic pathway for synthesizing isoprenoids in E. coli
January 18, 2019 - Scientists advise caution in immunotherapy research
January 18, 2019 - How children across the world develop language
January 18, 2019 - Columbia Medical Student Receives McDonogh Scholarship
January 18, 2019 - Secretive ‘Rebate Trap’ Keeps Generic Drugs For Diabetes And Other Ills Out Of Reach
January 18, 2019 - Plant based diet could be the best option for the planet says commission
January 18, 2019 - New conservation practice could reduce nitrogen from agricultural drainage, study shows
January 18, 2019 - UIC researchers receive $1.7 million NCI grant to study Southeast Asian fruit
January 18, 2019 - New study determines the fate of DNA derived from genetically modified food
January 18, 2019 - Scientists develop new gene therapy that prevents axon destruction in mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds critically low HPV vaccination rates among younger adolescents in the U.S.
January 18, 2019 - Brain cells involved in memory play key role in reducing future eating behavior
January 18, 2019 - Risk for Conversion of MS Varies With Different Therapies
January 18, 2019 - Investigational cream may help patients with inflammatory skin disease
January 18, 2019 - Medical school news office receives six writing awards | News Center
January 18, 2019 - County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing
January 18, 2019 - Research reveals risk for developing more than one mental health disorder
January 18, 2019 - Scientists discover a dramatic pattern of bone growth in female mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds link between lengthy periods of undisturbed maternal sleep and stillbirths
January 18, 2019 - New nuclear medicine method could improve detection of primary and metastatic melanoma
January 18, 2019 - Combination therapy shows high efficacy in treating people with leishmaniasis and HIV
January 18, 2019 - Health Tip: Don’t Ignore Changes in Skin Color
January 18, 2019 - Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
January 18, 2019 - Eliminating the latent reservoir of HIV
January 18, 2019 - Pain From The Government Shutdown Spreads. This Time It’s Food Stamps
January 18, 2019 - Newly discovered regulatory mechanism helps control fat metabolism
January 18, 2019 - New rapid blood tests could speed up TB diagnosis, save the NHS money
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop intelligent system for ‘tuning’ powered prosthetic knees
January 18, 2019 - Monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab prolongs survival in patients with squamous cell carcinoma
January 18, 2019 - Microrobots could one day deliver drugs inside the body
January 18, 2019 - Maintaining an active lifestyle in older age could prevent dementia
January 18, 2019 - New research detects mosquito known to transmit malaria for the first time in Ethiopia
January 18, 2019 - Researchers identify new genes linked to development of age-related macular degeneration
January 18, 2019 - Computerized method helps better protect pharma patents
January 18, 2019 - New guidelines to make swallowing safer for people in Australian nursing homes
January 18, 2019 - Lumex Instruments’ RA-915AM monitor installed at Hg treatment plant in Almadén, Spain
January 18, 2019 - ACCC survey finds multiple threats to growth of cancer programs
January 18, 2019 - Meeting the challenge of engaging men in HIV prevention and treatment
January 18, 2019 - Furloughed Feds’ Health Coverage Intact, But Shutdown Still Complicates Things
Soda industry steals page from tobacco to combat taxes on sugary drinks

Soda industry steals page from tobacco to combat taxes on sugary drinks

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

In the run-up to the midterm elections, the soda industry has poured millions of dollars into fighting taxes on sugary drinks, an increasingly popular approach to combating obesity, which affects 40 percent of American adults.

Soda makers have campaigned against sugary drink taxes in dozens of cities in recent years, mostly successfully. But after a string of recent defeats, the industry is now pushing statewide measures that strip cities and towns of their ability to tax soda. Two of these state initiatives are on the ballot Tuesday in Washington and Oregon.

Arizona and Michigan already ban localities from enacting soda taxes. In California, where four cities have soda taxes, the beverage industry pressured lawmakers this summer into accepting a 12-year moratorium on local taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks. Some California lawmakers said they felt they were “held hostage” by the soda industry, which spent $7 million on a ballot initiative that would have made it much harder for cities to raise taxes of any kind. The beverage industry dropped the initiative after lawmakers agreed to the moratorium.

Soda makers also have cultivated close relationships with doctors, scientists and professional societies, including the Obesity Society and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Both groups say there’s not enough evidence to know if sugar taxes are effective.

Public health advocates say Big Soda is following a script perfected by the tobacco companies, which denied that their products were harmful and funded research that cast doubt on scientific studies while forcefully resisting taxes and regulations. Tobacco companies used their lobbying clout to persuade state lawmakers to prevent cities and counties from passing smoke-free ordinances. In 2006, 21 states pre-empted local smoke-free laws, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Even today, 13 states have some sort of ban on local smoke-free laws.

“There are definitely parallels with the tobacco industry,” said Betsy Janes, an activist with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Soda makers “are happy to take a page from their playbook.”

Following recommendations from the World Health Organization, more than 30 countries and seven U.S. cities — including Seattle, San Francisco and Boulder, Colo. — now tax sugary drinks. These laws usually exempt diet soda, pure fruit juice and bottled water.

Most public health advocates describe soda taxes as a proven way to reduce Americans’ consumption of added sugars, which have been linked to 40,000 deaths from heart disease every year. A study published last year in PLOS One projects that Mexico’s soda tax will prevent up to 134,000 cases of diabetes by 2030. In Philadelphia, sales of sweetened beverages fell 57% after a city tax of 1.5 cents per ounce took effect, according to a 2017 study.

Soda companies used their war chests to fund the Washington and Oregon ballot measures. Coca-Cola has contributed nearly half the $20 million raised in support of the Washington initiative, while the American Beverage Association has contributed about half the $5.6 million behind the Oregon measure.

PepsiCo, one of the largest soda companies, did not respond to calls or emails. Coca-Cola declined to comment on the issue, referring all questions to the American Beverage Association, which represents the soda industry. William Dermody, a spokesman for the beverage association, declined to comment on the comparison with Big Tobacco. But Dermody said the soda industry supports “keeping food and beverages affordable” and is “standing up for small business and working families” by supporting the ballot measures. Taxes on soda and other groceries “are harmful; they raise prices and they cost jobs,” he said.

Health advocates say the ballot measures aren’t really about groceries. The beverage industry’s strong support suggests the measures are really about protecting soda profits, said Hillary Caron, senior policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In Washington, basic groceries are exempt from sales taxes, said state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat opposed to the initiative. “In 41 years, there hasn’t been one bill to tax groceries,” Carlyle said. The beverage industry “is retaliating against our state” because of Seattle’s soda tax.

Matthew Myers, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the tobacco industry has long allied itself with anti-tax and pro-business groups, which have helped it fend off cigarette taxes. The tobacco industry fought smoke-free laws by warning that they would drive customers away from restaurants and bars. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smoking bans increase business at bars and restaurants because customers enjoy clean air. Similarly, research shows that Philadelphia’s sugary drink tax hasn’t hurt business, Myers said. Although sales of sugary drinks have fallen, overall business at chain stores hasn’t suffered, according to a 2017 study. A study of a soda tax in Berkeley, Calif., found similar results, with residents buying less soda but more bottled water.

Public health groups said they aren’t giving up on soda taxes. In California, the state dental and medical associations have filed a ballot measure for 2020 to create a statewide tax on sugary drinks.

A Show Of Force

Soda makers have plenty of money for a fight. The food and beverage industry spends $22.3 million a year on lobbying, including $5.4 million by Coca-Cola. That’s more than the tobacco industry, which spends $16.7 million on lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.org.

The tobacco industry spent decades funneling money into research that made cigarettes look less harmful than they really were, Myers said. Beverage companies also have tried to win over scientists and medical societies by funding research, said Marion Nestle, an emeritus professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of “Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.”

Soda industry funding of medical meetings, journals and researchers is ubiquitous. Coca-Cola acknowledges spending $146 million on “well-being related scientific research, partnership and health professional activities” from 2010 through 2017. A 2016 study found that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo funded 95 national medical organizations from 2011 to 2015, while lobbying against 29 public health bills that aimed to reduce soda consumption or improve diet. Coca-Cola funded the publication of 389 articles in 169 journals from 2008 to 2016, according to a study published this year in Public Health Nutrition.

Nestle said no one should be surprised that industry-funded research tends to absolve soda from any role in causing obesity. Beverage industry research typically shifts the blame for obesity onto inactivity and “energy balance,” suggesting that exercise is far more important to weight loss than cutting back on sugar and calories, she said.

Yet independent researchers have found “quite compelling” evidence linking sugary drinks to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, said Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The CDC notes that sodas are among the largest sources of added sugar in the American diet. A 12-ounce can of Coke contains 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar; the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, and that men limit themselves to nine.

Dermody questioned the link between sugary drinks and obesity. Obesity has increased steadily over the past three decades. Yet in 2015, sales of carbonated soft drinks fell to their lowest level in 30 years, suggesting the obesity epidemic is being driven by something other than soda, Dermody said. He noted that half the soft drinks sold today have no calories. That shows that voluntary industry efforts to reduce sugar and calories in soft drinks are working, and that taxes aren’t needed.

A number of medical groups and universities stopped accepting soda industry funding in 2015, after extensive publicity of Coca-Cola’s attempts to influence science. Most health groups — including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association — now support soda taxes.

Two medical groups have defied this trend.

In July, just after California lawmakers approved the moratorium on soda taxes, the Obesity Society, which represents doctors who treat overweight patients, issued a statement saying there’s no proof that such measures will save lives. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which includes dietitians, has taken a “neutral” stand on soda taxes, noting that “scientific evidence is insufficiently clear.” In a statement similar to positions taken by the beverage industry, the nutrition academy said, “No single food or beverage leads to overweight or obesity when consumed in moderate amounts and within the context of the total diet.”

Both the obesity and nutrition groups have had close relationships with the soda industry. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were “premier sponsors” of the nutrition academy in 2016, according to the group’s annual report. PepsiCo and Ocean Spray paid for “premium” exhibit booths at the nutrition academy’s national conference in October. Booths that size were priced at nearly $40,000 to $50,000 each.

In October, PepsiCo underwrote a special issue of the Obesity Society’s journal, which was devoted entirely to the science of artificial sweeteners, at a cost of $26,880. Although PepsiCo paid the journal’s publisher for the special issue, part of the money also went to the Obesity Society, said Dr. Steven Heymsfield, the group’s president-elect. The Obesity Society also has nurtured close ties with soda makers through a “food industry engagement council.” Past meetings were chaired by executives of PepsiCo and attended by employees of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, now known as Keurig Dr Pepper.

Anthony Comuzzie, the Obesity Society’s executive director, said the society has disbanded the food industry council. In an email, Comuzzie denied that the society’s ties to industry have influenced its position on soda taxes. “To imply that the group or society collectively is biased by food companies has no basis in reality,” he said in an email.

The nutrition academy notes that sponsorships make up less than 5 percent of its budget. “Revenue generated from sponsorships has no impact on the Academy’s policymaking or any stance on issues,” the group said in a statement.

Nestle said that the soda industry appears to have bought the nutrition academy’s silence.

“It is shameful that the academy is not strongly supporting public health measures to prevent obesity,” Nestle said. “The academy’s position puts it squarely on the side of the food industry and against public health.”

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles