Mayors and AMA say food stamps shouldn't pay for soft drinks

Louisville's Greg Fischer is among 18 mayors asking Congress to ban sugary drinks from purchase under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.  One day after their June 18 letter, the American Medical Association adopted a policy supporting the removal of sugar-sweetened drinks from SNAP.

In a the letter sent to congressional leaders, the mayors said it is "time to test and evaluate approaches limiting" the use of the subsidies for sugar-laden beverages to fight obesity and diseases linked to obesity, reports Jennifer Peltz of The Associated Press.

At its annual meeting, the AMA took several steps toward controlling the country's increasing obesity problem, including calling obesity a disease, an action that may prompt insurers to cover medical treatments aimed against obesity. “The AMA is working to improve the nation’s health care outcomes, particularly cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are often linked to obesity,” said AMA President Dr. Ardis Hoven of Lexington. “Removing sugar-sweetened beverages from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will help encourage healthier beverage choices.”

This isn't the first attempt to ban soda from SNAP. The Department of Agriculture, where the program is housed, turned down such a request from New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010. The city had proposed a two-year experiment to see if a sugary beverage ban would reduce obesity among food-stamp recipients. But, the department rejected the plan and said a soda ban would “perpetuate the myth” that food stamp users make poor shopping decisions, The New York Times reported. Read about Kentucky's SNAP program here.

The soda lobby, the American Beverage Association, said sugary drinks shouldn't be singled out as a cause of obesity. It called obesity "a complex health condition that affects Americans of all income levels." Last year, more than 47 million low-income Americans used food stamps.

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