Group Aims To Take Soft
Drinks Out of Schools
WASHINGTON (AP) - A consumer group says the product poses a big health threat to American teens and wants it banned from schools, taxes placed on its sale and an end put to ads that target children.
No, not tobacco. Soda pop.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the private group known for exposing the evils of Chinese food and theater popcorn, now wants to pop the lid off the sugary drinks it says make up a dangerous portion of the American diet.
''The average American is drinking twice as much soda pop as in 1974,'' said the center's executive director, Michael Jacobson. And one-fourth of the teen-agers who drink soda get 25% or more of their calories there, he said.
''Those calories, of course, come from sugar, and teens consume two to three times as much sugar as government guidelines recommend,'' Jacobson said Wednesday.
Standing next to a wall of gleaming red, blue, green and silver aluminum cans, Jacobson urged states to tax soda sales to pay for health education campaigns. He also called on soft drink makers to end their marketing to young people and denounced deals that soda companies have made with schools to place vending machines on campuses.
Soda industry executives were quick to accuse the group of promoting ''unfounded consumer alarm.''
''Soft drinks have never pretended to be anything more than a nice refreshment product. They make no nutrition claim,'' said Jim Finkelstein, of the National Soft Drink Association.
''Consumers are smart enough to make their own choices, smarter than Dr. Jacobson gives them credit for being,'' Finkelstein said.
Another industry group, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, dismissed the anti-soda campaign as ''another tiresome tirade against the food industry'' by the center, which has previously decried the dangers it sees in Big Macs, eggs, saccharin and the fat substitute, olestra.
Jacobson linked soda consumption to obesity, kidney stones, heart disease and calcium deficiency in teen-agers, although he offered little scientific evidence. The statistics on how much soda people drink came from analyzing surveys by the Department of Agriculture, he said.