If you're looking for a way to turn poor people away from the fight against obesity, I think New York City, which wants to bar the use of food stamps for soft drinks, has found it:
Medical researchers have increasingly associated the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages with weight gain and the development of diabetes. Over the past 30 years, consumption of sugary beverages in the United States has more than doubled, in parallel with the rise in obesity, to the point where nearly one-sixth of an average teenager's calories now come from these drinks.Some 57 percent of adults in New York City and 40 percent of children in New York City public schools are overweight or obese. The numbers are especially high in low-income neighborhoods, where people are most likely to suffer the devastating health consequences. One in eight adult city residents now has diabetes, and the disease is nearly twice as common among poorer New Yorkers as it is among wealthier ones. Diabetes rates in the low-income neighborhood of East New York, for instance, are four times those in affluent Gramercy Park.And substantial health care costs arise from this trend: obesity-related illnesses cost New York State residents nearly $8 billion a year in medical costs, or $770 per household. All of us pay the price through higher taxes.Every year, tens of millions of federal dollars are spent on sweetened beverages in New York City through the food stamp program -- far more than is spent on obesity prevention. This amounts to an enormous subsidy to the sweetened beverage industry. To correct this, New York City and State are asking the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, to authorize a demonstration project in New York City.The city would bar the use of food stamps to buy beverages that contain more sugar than substance -- that is, beverages with low nutritional value that contain more than 10 calories per eight-ounce serving. The policy would not apply to milk, milk substitutes (like soy milk, rice milk or powdered milk) or fruit juices without added sugar -- and its effects would be rigorously evaluated.