AMA Drops Call for Soft Drinks Tax

Published January 1, 2007

The American Medical Association (AMA) has backed away from a proposed resolution calling for states and the federal government to levy special taxes on “sugary drinks that are devoid of nutritional value.”

At a November meeting of AMA delegates in Las Vegas, delegates instead opted for an alternate resolution calling for collaborative efforts across the health and beverage industries to fight obesity.

“The beverage industry appreciates the hard work of the American Medical Association in adopting a comprehensive approach to addressing the complex problem of obesity,” said Susan K. Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association. “The beverage industry is and will continue to be part of collaborative efforts with the medical and health community to help tackle this issue.”

Soft drink bottlers and the American Beverage Association, which represents more than 200 bottlers of soft drinks, fruit juices, and water, had argued there is no need for a tax on sugary soft drinks.

The AMA’s Resolution 437 was introduced in 2005. Delegates debated it in June 2006 and sent it back to committee for further study and a vote at the November meeting.

Anti-Obesity Taxes Out

The resolution would have been delivered to all 50 state medical societies and specialty and subspecialty medical societies, urging them to work for the passage of taxes on sugar-sweetened soft drinks to reduce the incidence of obesity. Instead, those medical societies will receive the broader resolution calling for collaboration to reduce the incidence of obesity.

The AMA’s original resolution said “levying small taxes on soft drinks” is warranted because numerous studies identify them as a contributing cause of obesity.

The original resolution did not specify the level of tax, but stated that raising taxes to hike the price of soft drinks likely would reduce consumption, call more attention to the problem of obesity, and provide funding for anti-obesity programs.

“Taxes distract from real solutions, like balancing diets and more physical activity,” said Kevin Keane, senior vice president of communications for the bottlers association. “We’ve always argued a big part of the equation that is overlooked is physical activity. It’s easier to demonize certain products than tell people to get off their computers and Game Boys and be more active.”

Industry Regulating School Sales

Keane said the soft drink industry is already taking big strides in fighting obesity. In May 2006, he noted, bottlers voluntarily enacted a program to regulate what they sell in schools and the portion size of those items.

That move was part of an agreement announced with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association.

“That’s a dramatic step, especially when there may not be a need to do it,” Keane said, “but we recognized the unique environment of schools. First, it’s an educational environment. We believe we should be supportive of a calorie-based policy as a contribution to the education effort.

“Also, kids are away from parents when they’re at school. Especially for kids in elementary and middle school, parents want help. They want their options to be limited, and that’s what we’ve done. They are consumers, and we listen to consumers,” noted Keane.

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is managing editor of Budget & Tax News.

For more information …

Information about the American Beverage Association’s school beverage guidelines is available at

Information about the American Medical Association’s Resolution 437 is available at