Soft Drink Taxes Gaining Momentum
Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages has become a hot topic, spurred by a number of factors including the proposal of such a tax by New York’s governor, proposals that revenue to fund health care could be generated in part by a tax, and the April release of a New England Journal of Medicine article advocating a tax. The article was coauthored by Rudd Center Director Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, and Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, then Commissioner of the New York City Health Department and now Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors wrote that a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared beverages could reduce consumption and generate revenue for programs to prevent obesity among children and adults. As evidence, they cited successful taxes on tobacco.
A recent American Heart Association report highlighted the increased consumption of added sugar between 1970 and 2005 in American adults, primarily from sugar-sweetened beverages. The AHA recommends that added sugars make up no more than 100 calories of an American woman’s daily diet and 150 calories of an American man’s.
The Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax section of the Rudd Center’s Web site offers research and legislative resources about the issue. The revenue calculator, developed in collaboration with economist Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD, from the University of Chicago, produces expected revenue by state, city, tax per ounce, and type of beverage. The Rudd Center hosted a webinar to discuss the rationale, relevant science, and economic and policy considerations of taxes, and the impact of taxes on obesity prevention.
For more information, visit the Rudd Center’s Web page dedicated to sugar-sweetened beverage taxes.
Experts Gather at ‘Weight of the Nation’ Conference: National Obesity Strategy on the Agenda
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently hosted Weight of the Nation, its inaugural conference on obesity prevention and control. Policy makers, public health leaders, and obesity research experts gathered in Washington, D.C. to share ideas to support the development of a “National Road Map for Obesity Prevention and Control.” The road map will serve as a guideline for integrated obesity prevention and control initiatives.
Conference attendees explored four intervention settings – community, workplace, medical care, and school – and examined evidence-based strategies to reduce or prevent obesity in children and adults. During the conference the CDC presented “Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States,” a report that included 24 obesity-prevention strategies that focus on environmental and policy changes to promote healthy eating and physical activity. The economic factors of obesity were also analyzed, such as the cost effectiveness of prevention and the cost burden on the health care system. Research that suggests spending for obesity-related diseases is now about $147 billion per year was presented at the conference, highlighting the urgent need for effective strategies to address the obesity epidemic in the United States.
Weight of the Nation featured a discussion of regulatory approaches to the obesity issue. CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, suggested decreasing the price of healthy foods and increasing the price of unhealthy foods “would be effective.”
The Rudd Center stands firmly behind a soft drink tax proposal and menu labeling initiatives. Both are good public policies that should help individuals make better dietary choices and ultimately, reduce rising obesity rates.
Rudd Center Launches Food and Addiction Web Page
Food’s possible addictive properties may be playing a role in the obesity epidemic. To shed light on the growing field of food and addiction research, the Rudd Center has launched a Food & Addiction Web page. This new section of the Rudd Center Web site provides background on food and addiction studies and highlights the Rudd Center’s work on the topic, including the Yale Food Addiction Scale, related publications, and a report from the food and addiction conference held at the Rudd Center.
Most recently, preliminary validation results for the Yale Food Addition Scale were published in the journal Appetite. This new research tool measures and assesses food dependence issues. The Yale Food Addiction Scale is the first of its kind and was created by Ashley Gearhardt, a PhD student in Yale’s Clinical Psychology program; William Corbin, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University; and Rudd Center Director, Kelly D. Brownell, PhD.
Please visit the new Food & Addiction section of the Rudd Center Web site to learn more.
Upcoming Seminar Speakers
September 9, 12:30 pm: David B. Abrams, PhD
September 16, 12:30 pm: Alison E. Field, ScD
September 30, 12:30 pm: Joshua Freedman, MD
Our seminars are at the Rudd Center, located at 309 Edwards Street in New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. They are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download as a PDF document.
To receive a weekly email from the Rudd Center detailing upcoming seminars and schedule changes, click here.
Spotlight on Rudd Center Affiliated Faculty: Daylian M. Cain, PhD
Daylian M. Cain is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management. Dr. Cain’s research combines behavioral economics and philosophy to study decision-making, especially decisions that involve self-restraint. He is considered an expert on how people evaluate conflicts of interest. For example, Dr. Cain has shown that when people disclose their conflicts of interest, they relax their self-restraint. Disclosure makes people feel morally licensed to serve their own personal interests (at the expense of their obligations to their audience) after “the audience has been warned.”
In researching self-restraint, Cain also studies altruism, overconfidence, and indulgence. One of Dr. Cain’s projects involves what he calls “small-consequence decision-making.” Dr. Cain says that people often deviate far from their plans after one negligible digression. For example, dieters may think that “one piece of pie won’t hurt.” The problem, of course, is that the consequences of these deviations add up when they are repeated. Dr. Cain and his colleagues are searching for moderating variables that enhance self-restraint and reduce the temptation to repeatedly deviate from best-made plans.
Prior to joining the Yale School of Management, Dr. Cain was the Russell Sage Fellow of Behavioral Economics at Harvard University’s Economics Department. He has a long record of academic excellence. He holds master’s degrees from Dalhousie University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University.
Dr. Cain is the author of numerous articles and is coeditor of Cambridge Press’ Conflicts of Interest: Problems and Solutions from Law, Medicine and Organizational Settings. His research is widely discussed and he has won many awards, including the Herb Simon Dissertation Award for his work, The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest. Dr. Cain is developing a new Yale MBA course called “Business Ethics Meets Behavioral Economics.”
Read more about Dr. Cain's work.
Major Problem Calls for Major Action
In a review article in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, Rudd Center researchers outlined a public health approach to addressing obesity that involves making positive changes in the environments where people live. By creating optimal defaults in their communities, the researchers concluded, people can more easily make healthy choices and high obesity prevalence rates may be reversed. The article was co-authored by Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director; Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director; Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; Kathryn E. Henderson, PhD, Director of School of Community Initiatives; and Jennifer Harris, PhD, Director of Marketing Initiatives.
The authors identified five areas to address the primary forces behind the childhood and adolescent obesity epidemic: framing the obesity issue, treating versus preventing obesity, nutrition in schools, marketing, and weight bias and discrimination. Modifying default conditions can be a quicker, less expensive, and more effective strategy than the long-standing medical and education models.
“It is clear that prevention of obesity must be the priority,” said Dr. Brownell. “Good treatments are necessary for those who need help and such treatment should be delivered in kind and compassionate ways, but reducing the national prevalence of obesity can only come about by changing the conditions that are driving obesity.”
Get Social with the Rudd Center
Visit the Rudd Center’s new Social Media Web page to stay connected to the latest in food and obesity research and policies through tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.