April 29, 2010

Medical students lobby soda tax at state capitol

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VUSM students, from left, David Marcovitz, Brittany Taylor, Rishi Naik and Emily Maston leave the state legislature.

Medical students lobby soda tax at state capitol

Several students from the Vanderbilt chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) visited Tennessee’s state legislature recently, lending their voices to combat childhood obesity.

David Marcovitz and fellow Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students have proposed legislation to change the way taxes raised from soft drink sales would be spent. Instead of the tax money going to the state Department of Transportation for litter cleanup programs, the students want to empower individual counties to use the funds on a wider range of expenses.

“We are not proposing an abandonment of litter control, but we think they ought to use some of it for land use that promotes physical activity like greenways, parks and athletic fields.” Marcovitz said.

Accompanied by state Rep. Mike Stewart, a co-sponsor of the bill, and five fellow Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students, Marcovitz testified before the House Budget Subcommittee on April 7.

Among the medical students recognized by the legislators were Legislative Coordinator Brittany Taylor and Grassroots Coordinator Baldeep Pabla.

“We do not wish to demonize soda, but we cannot ignore the data that says we as a society have made these drinks far too inexpensive relative to healthier alternatives by subsidizing the high fructose corn syrup they contain,” Marcovitz told the committee.

The subcommittee decided to revisit the bill at a later date, but the VUSM students remain hopeful.

“While we do not propose this bill will solve the childhood obesity crisis, we do see it as a small step in a positive direction,” Marcovitz said.