AHA board president releases statement on Santa Fe sugary drink tax vote

Tuesday’s vote in Santa Fe, N.M., represents a desperate last gasp by Big Soda to protect its coffers at the expense of kids.

In large part due to Big Soda’s false claims, nearly 1,000 additional 3- and 4-year olds in Santa Fe, the majority of whom are from families with low-income, will not benefit from attending high-quality preschool programs.

George J. Philippides, MD
George J. Philippides, MD

Here in Massachusetts, we’re determined to prevail against an industry that has built itself up by tearing down people’s health. The bottom line is that sugary drinks are the top source of added sugars for millions of people. Kids, in particular, drink as much as ten times more than the American Heart Association recommends each week, increasing the risk for serious chronic diseases like heart disease and stroke.

Research shows that sugary drink taxes can help. A recent study found that, in Berkeley, Calif., sales of taxed sugary drinks are down and sales of bottled water are up. And, thanks to the sugary drink tax in Philadelphia, an additional 2,000 children there are now enrolled in high-quality pre-school programs.

Massachusetts state lawmakers have introduced legislation to tax drinks by sugar content. The estimated $360 million in annual revenue would fund children’s health initiatives.

In 2016, it was estimated that a tax based on sugar content could reduce overall sugary drink consumption by 25 percent, even more than taxes by volume alone. A more significant decline in sugary drink consumption may yield a greater reduction in chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes over time by helping people live longer and healthier lives, reducing health care costs for families and businesses, and strengthening state and local economies. It will also provide the beverage industry an incentive to make healthier drinks. Consumers will have more choices at different price points, allowing them to choose drinks with less added sugar at a lower price.


George J. Philippides, MD

President, American Heart Association Founders Affiliate Board

Chief of Cardiology, Newton-Wellesley Hospital