Baltimore Statement on Dangers of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

As doctors and public health leaders, we are concerned about the future of Baltimore’s children.

In our city, one in three school-aged children are overweight or obese. One major cause is sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). One in four of our city’s children drink at least one soda every day. Scientific studies show that SSBs promote weight gain and are the primary sources of added sugar and calories in children’s diets. In fact, drinking one SSB per day increases a child’s odds of becoming obese by 60%.

For the first time in history, we are treating children with diseases previously seen only in adults, such as adult-onset diabetes and early heart disease. Studies directly link this startling trend to the consumption of sugary drinks.

Research shows that many parents are not aware of these dangers, and would make different choices about their children’s drinks if they did. There are warning labels on cigarettes and alcohol for this reason; consumers must have the facts at point-of-sale to make informed choices for their families.

Studies have shown that beverage companies disproportionately market their sugary drinks to low-income communities that are already hardest hit by health disparities and have the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease. The consumption of SSBs is increasing rampant inequities, speeding our most vulnerable children toward poor health and shortened life spans.

This is why we stand in support of legislative efforts to require warning labels on all SSB advertisements, on restaurant menus, and in any store that sells SSBs. These warning labels should state what doctors and scientists already know: that sugary drinks can lead to tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, and other preventable illnesses.

We stand together as the medical and public health communities of Baltimore to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity and raise awareness of the dangers of SSBs. By advocating for the health and well-being of our patients, we are driven by the rules of science and grounded in the principles of social justice.

Children and their parents deserve to know the facts about threats to their health. We cannot wait until another generation grows up with poor health and preventable disease; now is the time for bold action.

Leana S. Wen, M.D.
Baltimore City Health Department
Steven J. Czinn, MD
Chairman, Department of Pediatrics
University of Maryland School of Medicine
University of Maryland Children's Hospital
LaMar Hasbrouck, M.D., MPH
Executive Director
National Association of County and City Health Officials
On behalf of 2,800 local health departments across the U.S.
Scott Krugman, M.D.
Department of Pediatrics
Medical Education
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
Susan Dulkerian, M.D.
Interim Chair, Pediatrics
Director of Newborn Services
Mercy Medical Center
Brian J. Browne, M.D.
Professor and Chairman
Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Michael G. Burke, M.D.
Chairman of Pediatrics
St. Agnes Hospital
Timothy Doran, M.D.
Chairman of Pediatrics
Greater Baltimore Medical Center
Robert Atlas, M.D.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Mercy Medical Center
George J. Dover, M.D.
Director of Pediatrics
Johns Hopkins Children’s Center
Melly Goodell, M.D.
Department of Family Medicine
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
Stephen D. Sisson MD FACP
Philip A. Tumulty Professor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Executive Director, Ambulatory Services
The Johns Hopkins Hospital
Jon Falck, M.D.
Emergency Department
St. Agnes Hospital 
Jean Silver-Isenstadt, M.D., Ph.D.
Executive Director
National Physicians Alliance
On behalf of 20,000 NPA members
Michael Winters, M.D.
Associate Professor and Clinical Director, Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Maryland Medical Center
Dr. Tracey L. Murray,
Coppin State University
Esther Rae Barr, CAE       
Executive Director
Maryland Academy of Family Physicians
On behalf of 1,400 MDAFP members
Eric Balighian, M.D.
Director, Pediatric Emergency Medicine
St. Agnes Hospital
Jane E. Clark, Ph.D.
School of Public Health
University of Maryland
Carmel A. McComiskey DNP, CRNP, FAANP, FAAN
Director, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants
University of Maryland Medical Center
Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D.
Associate Dean
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Peter Beilenson, M.D., MPH
President and Chief Executive Officer
Evergreen Health Cooperative
Robert Wm. Blum, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.
William H. Gates, Sr. Professor and Chair
Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health
Director, Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Joneigh Khaldun, M.D., MPH
Chief Medical Officer
Assistant Commissioner for Clinical Services
Baltimore City Health Department
Deborah Vozzella Hall, M.D.
National President
American Medical Student Association
On behalf of over 30,000 AMSA members
Michael Crocetti, M.D.
Chief of Pediatrics
Johns Hopkins Community Physicians
Darren Brownlee, MHA
National Association of Health Services Executives
Baltimore Chapter
Georges C. Benjamin, MD, MACP, FACEP(E), FNAPA, Hon FRSPH, Hon FFPH
Executive Director
American Public Health Association
Joseph Wiley, M.D.
Medical Director for Population Health
LifeBridge Health
Robin Weiss, M.D.
Private Practice in Psychiatry
Baltimore, MD
Eric Sundel, M.D.
Pediatric Emergency Medicine
St Agnes Hospital
Maureen Black, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Growth & Nutrition
Department of Pediatrics
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Bob England, M.D., MPH
Maricopa County, AZ
Department of Public Health 
(On behalf of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health)
Stephen L. Williams, M.Ed., M.P.A.
Houston Health Department
(On behalf of the Houston Health Department)
Abdul El-Sayed, MD, DPhil
Executive Director & Health Officer
Detroit Health Department
City of Detroit
(On behalf of the Detroit Health Department)
Kelly Colopy
Long Beach, CA
Department of Health & Human Services
(On behalf of the Long Beach Department of Health & Human Services)
Tomás J. Aragón, MD, DrPH
Health Officer, City & County of San Francisco
Director, Population Health Division (PHD)
San Francisco Department of Public Health
Faculty, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
Tina Cheng, M.D.
Chair of Pediatrics
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
Cheryl Bettigole, MD, MPH
Director, Division of Chronic Disease Prevention -- Get Healthy Philly
Philadelphia Department of Public Health
(On behalf of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health)
Brooke Buckley, M.D., FACS
President of MedChi
The Maryland State Medical Society
Big Cities Health Coalition
Representing 28 local health departments in the largest, most urban areas in the U.S.
Kathryn Chenault, M.D.
University of Maryland Medical System
Sumeska Thavarajah, M.D.
Chair, Medical Advisory Board
National Kidney Foundation of Maryland
Traci A. Barnett, MBA
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Kidney Foundation of Maryland
Michaeline R. Fedder, MA
Government Relations Director, Maryland
American Heart Association/American Stroke Association
Jim Krieger, MD, MPH
Executive Officer
Healthy Food America
Clinical professor of Medicine and Health Services
University of Washington
Laurie David
Author, Producer, and Environmental Advocate
Michael F. Jacobson, PhD
Center for Science in the Public Interest
(On behalf of the 1,374 CSPI members in Baltimore)
League of Women Voters
Baltimore City