Richmond City Council votes to put a soda tax on the ballot in November. Soda taxes have the potential to change norms, reverse rising rates of chronic disease, and promote health at the community level. Prevention Institute's Larry Cohen is quoted.
By Rebecca Rosen Lum
Read the original post at BerkeleyPatch
Salvos in the war on obesity have been lobbed from the nation's coasts, and Big Soda is firing back.
In Richmond, the city council voted to put a soda tax on the November ballot. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ignited editorial pages across the nation with his edict banning oversized cups full in delis, fast-food eateries and sports arenas.
Needless to say, those bastions of robust health, Coca-Cola and McDonalds, countered, saying they were collectively shocked, shocked, to hear of a correlation between soft drinks and obesity.
A Berkeley resident presented the city council with the Richmond proclamation Tuesday night and suggested this city could make a bundle - and head off a bundle of woes - by following that city's example.
Leading the charge is Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman.
Ritterman, retired chief cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center, describes what happens when the body downs a cola drink, socking the liver with an overwhelming blast of sugar.
Unable to handle such huge doses by the usual metabolic pathway, the liver shunts off the excess in alternative pathways, producing fat.
"The liver itself gets filled with fat and then begins to malfunction," he writes in a guest editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle June 1. "The fatty liver becomes insulin resistant - that is, it simply becomes ‘deaf' to the hormonal signal it receives from insulin, the substance our body secretes to use sugar. The pancreas responds by making the hormonal signal louder by making more insulin. Eventually the overworked pancreas poops out. The result: diabetes."
And as we all know by now, clogged arteries contribute to heart attacks. The American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association and the United Nations support Ritterman's proposal.
Is this a wise move that will prolong lives, promote health and save cities astronomical amounts of money on health services? Or as one Bloomberg critic said, is this a case of the nanny state run amok?
"Changing norms can feel jarring, but it saves lives," writes Prevention Institute executive director Larry Cohen in the Huffington Post. "When was the last time you heard someone musing out loud about how they miss lead paint or smoking in the office?"
A Duke University study pins the cost to employers of obesity among full-time employees at $73.1 billion a year. In Alameda County, the cost is pegged at $1 billion, with $371 million in lost productivity, according to a seminar on national obesity.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given the measure his blessing, saying the tax could just be "the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic."
Meanwhile, the beverage industry council will tomorrow unfurl a full page ad mocking Bloomberg: "The Nanny: You only thought you lived in the land of the free."