By Jeff Ritterman
The issue of the Richmond Soda Tax is being hotly debated in the Richmond Community. I am grateful for the opportunity to address the readers of the Richmond Post on this important issue.
To set the record straight, infant formula, ensure and 100 percent fruit juices will not be taxed. There was confusion about the infant formula issue, but it has been cleared up. Since infant formula and ensure were never intended to be taxed, they are not.
As far as the charge that the tax is regressive and hurts the poor, let me say that diabetes, premature heart attacks, strokes and cancer hurt the poor much more than a one-cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages.
America currently spends close to $200 Billion a year on health costs related to obesity.
But it’s not the cost alone, and it’s not about being fat. It’s about dying young. That’s what will happen to our young people if we do not reverse the obesity epidemic. Richmond’s African American and Latino students are at the highest risk of dying young from obesity related diseases.
When our kids drink sodas, the sugar goes right to the liver and gets converted to fat which causes fatty liver disease, diabetes and premature heart attacks. If you drink one can of soda a day, your risk of a heart attack increases by 20 percent. That was published this year in the heart journal Circulation.
The science is new, and it is frightening. These drinks are taking years off of the lives of Richmond’s children!
It’s like being the very first ones to learn that cigarettes cause lung cancer. Richmond can lead the nation in reversing the obesity epidemic, and it will distinguish our city in ways that will also advance our economic development.
This week .a company from Chicago is looking at warehouse space in Richmond because they are interested in locating in a health conscious city. The CEO and I made contact over the Soda Tax issue.
Why the tax? Because all of the very best minds in medicine like Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that the tax could be “the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic.”
The Beverage Association’s own data in Richmond (personal communication Ralph Simoni, California and Nevada Beverage Association) show that the tax will result in a 15-24 percent decrease in consumption.
Decrease in consumption is what we want. Just like we want with cigarettes. The good news is we have great tap water, which is free. No one needs to go thirsty, and everyone can get healthier, save money, get thinner and save the environment at the same time.
Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper wholly fund the other side. Do you really think they care about the health of the kids of Richmond?
I know that some well-meaning folks are on the side of Big Soda, but most don’t fully understand the science and how devastating these sodas are to the health of our children.
I pledge that if the Soda Tax passes, I will work toward all of the revenue going for programs and projects that reverse childhood obesity like after school sports and more sports fields, swimming lessons for every third grader at The Plunge, putting gardening and nutrition teachers in all of our elementary schools and more.
Join the American Academy of Pediatrics, our children’s doctors who “applaud the Richmond City Council on behalf of the health of the children of California and strongly support” measure N.
Jeff Ritterman, M.D., serves on the Richmond City Council and was a cardiologist at Kaiser Richmond for 29 years.