Sugary drinking taxes could be threatened by Trump administration, experts tell

Trumps team, which includes head of biggest soda foyer, and a Republican Congress could side with beverage industry and undo advance, advocates warn

Taxes on sugary beverages had a banner year in the US, with six new laws passed across the US. But advocates for the preventive health measures are warns that the Trump administration could threaten or even reverse momentum.

I think there is going to be some combats to be fought to maintain ground and not lose ground, said David Goldberg, a spokesperson for Healthy Food America( HFA ), a key supporter of these taxes.

In October , the World Health Organization exhorted all nations to consider a sugary drink taxation to curb obesity, cut health care costs and increase revenue for health services. WHO has found that a 20% increase in price led to fewer people ingesting sugary drinks. It told taxes would have the greatest positive impact on the young and people with low incomes.

Sugary drink tax success in the US has followed momentum internationally. Several countries have introduced the taxes in recent years, including Mexico, which introduced the tax in January 2014 and the UK, which is set to introduce its sugary drinkings taxation in 2018.

When 2016 started, Berkeley, California was the only US jurisdiction with a sugary drink taxation, which passed in 2014.

But this year, Americans voted by referendum to institute the taxes in four cities, and city officials passed taxes in two other metropolitan areas: Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois a 5.2 million person jurisdiction that includes Chicago.

Now, sugary drink tax advocates see the US federal government as a threat to these developments.

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned against lobbyists, but his transition team included Michael Torrey, a lobbyist who runs a firm that helps the main soda foyer, the American Beverage Association. Torrey was tasked with helping set up the Department of Agriculture team, according to the New York Times . And in early December, Trump named fast food executive Andy Puzder as head of the labor department.

We merely have to be vigilant and try to protect gains that have been induced in recent years, Goldberg said. But meanwhile, regardless of what the lobbyists are doing at the federal level, we suppose local communities will keep making progress.

New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, writer of Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda( and Winning ), said progress on soda taxes has been outstanding, but it was difficult to predict how Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress would act towards public health initiatives.

Nobody seems very interested in public health in the group thats coming in, but we have to wait and see it doesnt look promising, she said. If I were Coca-Cola, Id be in Congress right now.

The beverage industry, for its part, said the success of sugar tax laws has been exaggerated.

The pro-tax proponents are going to areas that are more predisposed to taxes and I only dont watch taxes sweeping the middle of the country and people in the middle of the country wanting more government intervention, said Lauren Kane, an American Beverage Association spokesperson.

She noted that the taxes won by popular vote in some of the healthiest cities in the country: Boulder, Colorado and San Francisco.

But that skepticism has not stopped the industry from spending millions of dollars to combat these local laws.

The 2016 sugar taxation votes are just a few of the most expensive vote measures nationwide, with the American Beverage Association, spending $38 m to try and defeat the measures. Pro-sugar tax campaigns, meanwhile, were backed by billionaire donors such as Laura and John Arnold, whose foundation donates to HFA, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated nearly $20 m to efforts in Californias Bay Area.

The taxes are also being introduced after decades of falling soda sales as consumers move away from sugary beverages in favor of healthier alternatives.

The reality is that they[ the beverage industry] are facing a populace that understands the increased health risks from sugar drinkings and they are facing local policy makers and local community advocates who know what their communities need, told Jim OHara, the director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit that supports sugar taxes.

OHara told local wants would outweigh national political debates about these local health laws.

Mr Trump will be the president of the United States, OHara said. Hes not going to be the mayor or governor in cities or nations across the county.

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