School Soda Bans Don't Curb Kids' Consumption of Sugary Drinks
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Banning the sale of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages in schools does not stop kids from drinking them, a new study suggests.

Middle-school students in the study drank about the same amount of sugar-sweetened beverages, regardless of whether they lived in states with polices prohibiting the sale of these beverages in schools.

Kids' purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages within schools dropped only if their state's policy banned the sale of all sugar-sweetened beverages. In states with policies that banned only soda, and not other high-calorie drinks, children seemed to switch to drinking those beverages when they were at school.

The findings suggest that state policies banning soda in school will have only modest effects without broader polices that aim to affect the consumption of these beverages in the community or at home, the researchers said.

Soda in schools

Daniel Taber and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Chicago examined questionnaires from 6,900 public schools students in 40 states. The students were surveyed during their fifth- and eighth- grade years (in the spring of 2004 and 2007).

In states that banned only soda, about two-thirds of kids said they had access to sugar-sweetened beverages in school, and about 29 percent said they had purchased one of these beverages at school in the last week.

In states that had no policy against the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in school, the results were similar: two-thirds said they had access, and 26 percent said they had purchased one in the past week.

In states that banned the sale of all sugar-sweetened beverages in schools, about 50 percent of kids said they had access to these beverages in schools and 19 percent said they had purchased one at school in the last week. The inability of the bans to eliminate access and purchasing may be because schools are not complying with the states' policies, the researchers said.

Regardless of where the kids went to school, about 85 percent said they had consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once in the past week.

Reducing consumption

"Our study adds to a growing body of literature that suggests that to be effective, school-based policy interventions must be comprehensive," the researchers wrote in their paper, published online today (Nov. 7) in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"States that only ban soda, while allowing other beverages with added caloric sweeteners, appear to be no more successful at reducing adolescents' sugar-sweetened beverage access and purchasing within school than states that take no action at all."

In addition, polices such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages or regulation of food marketing to kids have been suggested as ways to reduce the consumption of these beverages in the community as a whole.

Pass it on: Soda bans in schools may do little to stop kids drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

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