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Obama open to soda 'sin tax'

2009-09-09 08:01

Washington - President Barack Obama hinted he could support a "sin tax" on fizzy drinks to help lower high rates of US obesity, but admitted it would be an uphill battle against corporate and economic interests.

"I actually think it's an idea that we should be exploring," Obama said in the forthcoming issue of Men's Health, regarding potential taxes levied on soft drinks such as colas and other sugar-filled products.

"There's no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that's been done about obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda consumption and obesity as just about anything else," he said in excerpts released ahead of the magazine's mid-September publication.

The president - reported to be one of the fittest US commanders-in-chief in decades - stressed that "obviously there is resistance on Capitol Hill to those kinds of sin taxes.

"Legislators from certain states that produce sugar or corn syrup are sensitive to anything that might reduce demand for those products," he said.

In addition, "people's attitude is that they don't necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink, and I understand that", Obama added.

"It is true, though, that if you wanted to make a big impact on people's health in this country, reducing things like soda consumption would be helpful."

Nearly $150bn a year

His comments come just six weeks after US health experts told a national conference on obesity in Washington that a significant portion of increased caloric intake in recent decades can be directly attributed to soft drinks and other sugared foods and drinks.

The president is currently embroiled in the most compelling domestic priority of his presidency, a reform of the US health care system.

Obama, who said he works out nearly every day in order to clear his head and reduce stress, described himself as "a healthy eater" with low blood pressure.

He keeps a bowl of apples in the Oval Office. "It was our first step toward health reform," he said.

Two-thirds of American adults are obese or overweight and obesity-related illnesses cost the United States nearly $150bn a year, health officials were told at the July conference.