(CHICAGO) -- In the controversial debate over imposing a soda and sugary beverage tax to fight obesity, the American Medical Association has declined to enter the fray -- at least for now.
At this week's annual meeting of the AMA's policy-making House of Delegates, nearly 300 delegates debated and ultimately opposed giving AMA support to a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, saying it needed more information on the topic, says AMA President Dr. Cecil Wilson.
"They said they were not sure that taxing these products would be appropriate and wanted to know more about the different types of sweeteners and their impact on public health. There will be a report back next year on the topic," he says.
Though president of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Freiden, has argued in favor of a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared drinks to both decrease consumption and raise sorely needed funds for health care, efforts to impose such a tax have met with staunch opposition by the beverage industry, and some doctors and academics.
"The taxes aren't going to be very effective because people's demand for sugary beverages is resistant to small price changes. When it comes down to it, people will probably just pay the few cents more and buy it anyway...which only disproportionately hurts those with less economic means," says Richard Williams of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who has studied the estimated impact of a beverage tax.
The strongest force opposing a soda tax has been, naturally, the American Beverage Association (ABA), the trade organization representing the interests of beverage companies in the U.S.
"Taxes don't make people healthier, making smart dietary decisions does," says ABA spokesman Chris Gindlesperger. "Our industry makes products with calories in them. We know that. But we believe that seeking to solve a complex health issue like obesity with discriminatory tax on beverages is not based in sound science," he says.
The ABA has lobbied against such a tax since it was first introduced in the 1990s. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the ABA currently devotes more than $18 million to fund lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
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