Public Health Leaders Propose Soda Tax

"We should spend our money on educating the public on ways in which they can maintain a healthy weight, teach our children how to live a healthy lifestyle. Certainly taxing soft drinks is not a way to teach our children how to live a healthy lifestyle," said Nicklas. "Where does self-responsibility come in? Why can't people take some of the responsibility for their health and making healthier choices?"

Nicklas said drinking soda and other sugar-containing beverages only accounted for a small part of what makes a person obese.

On that point, she had some agreement with doctors who supported the tax, but said it was just one step.

"It is not the only solution, but as for smoking, it is one part of the effective plan," said Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's weight management center.

She disagreed with Nicklas, however, on the role of sugary drinks in obesity.

"There is ample evidence that liquid calories contributes to the obesity epidemic -- not the only cause, but one of them," said Fernstrom. "So, a plan to try to alter change 'in the wallet' is a good one. In our country, people seem to respond to that kind of plan."

Katz agreed that taxes would help, but only provide part of the solution to obesity.

"Note that just as taxes are at best a small part of the solution, soda is, at worst, a small part of a very pervasive problem, often referred to as the 'typical American diet.'"

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