A group of Vanderbilt University medical students has united in support of what they feel to be positive steps in Tennessee’s battle with childhood obesity. Members of the Vanderbilt AMSA chapter are campaigning for a bill sponsored by State Senator Beverly Marrero and Representative Mike Stewart, which would place a one-cent per ounce tax on bottled soft drinks containing sugar in exchange for a reduction in the retail sales tax on food by 1 percent.
The students held a Lobby Day for their campaign at the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 to advocate for this bill and stress the urgency of addressing childhood obesity. Their campaign, called Give Tennessee Kids a Chance
, has received support from health care organizations across the state, such the as Tennessee Obesity Taskforce and the Greater Southeast Affiliate of the American Heart Association. The bill will be presented to the TN State House of Representatives for debate in the Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday morning, March 30, 2011.
Given that the risk of becoming an obese adult increases by 60 percent with each sugary drink a child drinks per day, and that soft drinks are the single largest contributor to daily calorie intake in the United States, the students and their supporters hope to help parents and children think twice when making their beverage selection. Further, by lowering the 5.5 percent sales tax on food in TN (the third highest in the nation) to 4.5 percent, the bill will make it easier for families to purchase healthier meals. With over 30 percent of the nation’s children either overweight or obese, and with Tennessee currently ranked as the 6th worst state in childhood obesity rates (36.5 percent of its children overweight or obese), this bill could not come at a more important time in childhood public health.
(Pictured: Jason Chen, Jessica Solomon, Representative Janis Sontany (D-TN), Scott Hagan, and Sina Salehi Omran.)