Ritterman: Measure N Good for Kids and Good for Richmond

By Jeff Ritterman Councilmembers Nat Bates and Corky Booze, BAPAC, the Richmond chapters of the NAACP and BWOPA, several African American clergy, two popular African American doctors and Willie Brown have all urged Richmond residents to vote against Measure N, the Richmond Soda Tax. I believe that they are terribly misinformed and that following their advice will lead to African American children dying prematurely. New science:  a can of soda a day increases your risk of obesity, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension and cancer.  All of the major causes of death have now been definitively linked to sugary drinks. Richmond’s African American students have the highest rate of obesity among our school children.  More than one in three is obese.  On average these students are consuming 40 pounds of extra sugar from sodas each year.  This added sugar goes to the liver and gets converted into fat. The liver itself gets packed with fat eventually leading to diabetes.   The liver also makes the dangerous fats that clog up the heart’s arteries leading to heart attacks early in life. Medical experts now agree that sodas are the number one cause of the obesity epidemic and the diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer that go with it. If we want to prevent our obese and overweight African American fifth and seventh graders and those that come after them from dying young we need a successful intervention. The brightest minds in medicine all agree that a soda tax is the smartest way to begin reversing the obesity epidemic.  Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said that the soda tax could be “the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic.” Our kids’ doctor’s organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, strongly supports Measure N, the Richmond Soda Tax.  So do the American Heart Association, the Institute of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the United Nations. Opponents of the Soda tax say it will hurt the poor.  Diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer hurt the poor even more.  The average household in Richmond will only pay an additional 20 cents a day if the tax passes. No one needs to pay the tax.  We all can drink tap water, milk or other alternatives without added sugar. A Soda Tax will result in about a 10 to 20 percent drop in consumption.  That is good, but not enough to reverse the obesity epidemic.  We need to invest the $3 million in tax revenue in programs to educate our children about nutrition, provide them with more nutritious food, and make available to our kids a wide variety of afterschool sports activities. For $86,000 we can teach every third grader in Richmond who wants to, how to swim at The Plunge.  An African American child’s chances of learning to swim without these lessons unless his or her parents are swimmers are 10 percent.  We can reverse this once and for all and allow all of our children to become water safe. We can afford new sports fields every year for our kids.  We can put nutrition teachers in all of our elementary schools.  We can support our Little League, The Half Steppers, our soccer leagues, our tennis program and our football teams with the tax revenue. Don’t take my word for it.  Come hear a national expert, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore speak on “When Breaking Up is Hard To Do: The Link Between Sugary Drinks and African American Health Disparities” on Monday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 684 Juliga Woods St. Jeff Ritterman, M.D. serves on the Richmond City Council and was a cardiologist at Kaiser Richmond for 29 years.
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