The deadly “gateway drug” no one is warning kids about

I’ve talked before about how I’m all for taxing junk food—especially soda and other sugary beverages. It’s probably one of my most controversial opinions. But I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a good idea. In fact, I just read that the UK doctors union, the British Medical Association (BMA), is calling for a 20% tax to be added to the cost of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Slapping a 20% tax on sugary drinks would trim Britain’s growing obesity rate by 1.3%, and help 180,000 people to shed unwanted pounds, according to recent research from Oxford and Reading universities.But what I like even better about this new proposal is that the Brits want to use the 20% tax to subsidize the price of fruit and vegetables, as part of a sustained attempt to improve the quality of the UK diet.

Now there’s a great idea…

If only America could get on board with our peers across the pond.

Actually, back in 2012 the American Medical Association (AMA) did call for a 20% tax to be implemented on sugar sweetened beverages. This is what the AMA said three full years ago: “Where taxes are implemented on sugar-sweetened beverages, using revenue for anti-obesity programs and educational campaigns explaining the adverse effects of excessive consumption of these beverages will help to reduce the consumption of these caloric beverages and improve public health.”

Yada, yada, yada…

So where are these anti-obesity programs?

It absolutely makes my blood boil that the US and the AMA are doing so little to make change happen. Particularly because sugar is adversly affecting our kids.

Kids in America today are growing up thinking that eating a diet based on processed and fast food is normal. One out of five children drink three or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day, which is the equivalent of an extra meal.Sugary soda and juice are nothing more than liquid calories. They’re the primary reason kids are consuming way too much sugar without even realizing it. And the results are downright catastrophic. It’s our job as adults to protect them from the deadly health effects of sugar.

In fact, I would go as far to say that sugar should be classified as a gateway drug to obesity. It should be lumped together with other deadly substances like trans fats, alcohol and cigarettes because it’s a proven fact that every one of these unhealthy substances grossly contributes to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. So why should one get preferential treatment when the others don’t?

If we can get food companies to reduce trans fats (albeit years and years after it was discovered that they were harmful to our health), then we must force them to do the same thing with sugar.

But, the powers-that-be are reluctant to take a stand. And I’ll give you one guess why.

Sugar is big business here in the U.S. In fact, our government subsidizes the sugar industry. So it would be awfully counterproductive to ban something we’re subsidizing. Yet, something must be done.

And taxing sugar-sweetened beverages would be a step in the right direction.

Of course, the sugar lobbyists and the American Beverage Association—a trade group that represents soda companies—said “singling out one set of products  in such an overly simplistic manner only undermines efforts to combat this complex issue.” They also said there would only be a slight decrease in body mass index if a 20% tax was imposed on sugary beverages. But here’s something they would never say out loud: Profit margins for soft drinks are ninety percent. And they can lower the base cost to offset any tax since it’s so cheap to produce these sugary beverages.

It just infuriates me how powerful these “Big Sugar” cohorts are. They will continue to aggressively market their poisons because they have unlimited resources. And they can get away with it because there is no strategy in place to teach the public that sugar-sweetened beverages are deadly.

Unfortunately, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. I’m sure the UK will pass a sugar tax far sooner than we will in this country. But that doesn’t mean you have to hoist the white flag and give in to Big Sugar. You have the power to control what kinds of foods and beverages you keep in your own home. And you can choose to keep sugar out.

A few years ago I wrote a book, called Feed Your Kids Well.  It offers simple solutions that can get your family on the right track. Because until we create an environment where it is easier to be healthy than unhealthy, we are never doing to win this battle. But it’s one we must win.