Push for a "soda tax" to reduce obesity

NEW YORK (ABC) - If you watch the commercials, soft drinks make us sing, they make us smile. But researchers say they also make us fat. "There are many contributors to obesity problem - but if you look at scientific studies consumption of sugar sweetened beverages would be at or near the top of the list," Kelly Brownell Rudd, Center Director for Obesity at Yale.

The average American drinks the equivalent of 50 cans of soda a month, according to the NSDA. And we drink more soda than bottled water, milk or coffee: Carbonated soft drinks: 28.3%, Bottled water 10.7%, Milk 10.9%, Coffee 9.0%, per the Beverage Marketing Group.

Today's commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine says one of the best ways to reduce this intake is to tax it.

"A 1 penny per ounce tax - on sugared beverages could lead to about a 10 percent reduction in population consumption which could be a public health home run," Kelly Brownell Rudd, Center Director for Obesity at Yale.

There is historical precedent; look at cigarette taxes. Studies estimate a 10 percent hike in cigarette prices led to 2 percent reduction in adult smoking rates, and a 7 percent reduction in teen smoking.

But a recent effort to tax sugared drinks like soda in New York, and raise more than a billion dollars in revenue, died after fierce lobbying from the beverage industry. "Soft drinks don't play any role in the obesity epidemic - soft drinks are just a fun beverage along with other beverages and food that we like to eat or drink. It's eating too much of something that is a problem," said Susan Neely, President of the American Beverage Association.

Is it fair for the government to try to tax into a certain behavior? Opinion is mixed. But public health experts are sure something needs to be done to fight obesity...some believe soft drinks are a good place to start. John Berman, ABC News, New York