Should soda and other sugary drinks carry warning labels like those required for tobacco and pesticides? A British public health expert thinks so, and forcefully argues most people would not only benefit from such labeling, but would also support the idea.
In an editorial published in the British medical journal BMJ.com, Simon Capewell — a professor at the University of Liverpool — noted California lawmakers are considering a new health bill that would require sugary drinks to be labelled with health warnings and vending machines to bear warning labels.
He added that sugar is "increasingly being implicated as a specific causal factor" for overweight, obesity, and heart disease — a leading cause of death worldwide — and "current U.K. and U.S. obesity policies are failing to reverse obesity trends."
He suggested "calorie control strategies could learn from previous successful lessons in tobacco control and alcohol control," and noted many other harmful products already carry warnings such as cigarettes, insecticides, other toxic products.
"A recent BBC survey found that 60 percent of adults would support health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets on food packaging," he said. "Even more, 70 percent, would support banning sugary drinks in U.K. schools, or limiting the amount of sugar allowed in certain foods."
Capewell applauded the food industry for taking steps forward, noting the consumer advocacy group Action on Sugar has recently persuaded several companies to cut sugar from sugary drinks.
But he added that warning labels represent an "interesting natural experiment" that "may offer an effective new strategy to complement existing, potentially powerful interventions like marketing bans and sugary drinks duties."
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