March 24 (UPI) — To decrease obesity among young people, major health organizations have called on communities around the United States to tax soda, fruit drinks and other sugary beverages.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association have backed a group of measures designed to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, according to a statement released Monday.

“I think it’s time that pediatricians get out there and advocate for some of these policies that really keep our kid’s health,” Sheela Magge, associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University and author on the statement, told UPI.

Children who consume more than 10 percent of the daily calories from added sugars have an increased risk of developing higher “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and lower heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. Despite that recommendation, children and teens now consume 17 percent of their daily calories from added sugars, the researchers say. Close to half of that comes just from drinks.

“I’ve had patients with type 2 diabetes who are 10 and 11 years old,” Magee said. “When are they going to have complications? Are they going to have their first heart attack in their late-20s or 30s when they should be at the peak of their lives doing all these amazing things?”

In 2013, Sugary drink manufacturers spent $866 million to market their products to adults and kids.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that young people should get no more than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugar. Despite that recommendation, children and teens get 17 percent of their daily calories from sugar-added food sources, the researchers say. And half of that comes from sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

More than 18 percent of people between ages 2 and 19 in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health problems associated with sugary drinks aren’t just linked to children. The CDC says nearly 40 percent of all people in the U.S. are obese.

People who drink two or more sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages face a 31 percent increased risk of having a stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular episodes.

The researchers want state and federal government agencies to reduce the marketing of sugary drinks to kids and teens and promote the consumption of healthy drinks like water and milk as default options on food menus.

For decades, sugary drinks have been marketed to children with the same techniques tobacco companies employed to pull in young smokers.

They also recommend that policymakers in states and jurisdictions around the county raise the prices of sugary drinks through excise takes. The revenue from those taxes could go to fund initiatives that advocate healthier eating habits for children.

San Francisco decided to fight the battle against obesity by imposing a 1 cent-per-ounce excise tax for any sugar-sweetened drinks. Those dollars are used to improve preventive health services, as well as school nutrition and oral health services in low-income communities.

In 2018, Seattle started taxing sugary drinks to help provide more fruit and vegetables to schools and early childhood centers.

“We want to really encourage people to make healthy foods less expensive to buy and unhealthy food more expensive to buy,” Magge said.

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