Sugar-sweetened beverages are leading sources of added sugars in the American diet, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, particularly among people living in poverty and racial/ethnic minority groups. Fifty percent (50 %) of excess calories consumed by Americans comes from sugary drinks.

Among all states and Washington DC, Rhode Island ranks an abysmal eleventh in childhood obesity. The average child consumes enough sugary drinks each year to fill a bathtub — more than 30 gallons.

Heavy consumption of sugary beverages has been linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout, says the CDC. Such poor health outcomes add to Rhode Island’s skyrocketing health care costs.

Sounding an alarm bell over potential health impacts, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association issued a series of recommendations, including raising prices of sugary drinks through an excise tax, with revenues dedicated “toward reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.”

Taking up this recommendation, Senator Euer and Representative Carson are co-sponsors of SB0327 and HB 5715 which, as stated, would

  • Increase access to and promote consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among Rhode Island’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Improve the overall health and wellness of Rhode Island families, children and residents.
  • Reduce the financial burden of chronic disease in our ocean state. 

Taxes from sugary beverages would go to a fund administered by the Department of Human Services to promote healthy food access and nutrition among Rhode Island SNAP recipients who would receive credits earned for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. This is the very group that suffers the poorest health outcomes.

The proposed bill is currently in the finance committee for consideration but needs your support – for the health of our state and our community. Write or call our representatives, co-sponsors Lauren Carson and Dawn Euer and Finance Committee Chair Marvin Abney.

Thank you.

John Hirschboeck
Newport, RI.

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