A recent study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has suggested that school soft drink bans do little to curb sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption among adolescents. Daniel Taber, et al., “Banning All Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Middle Schools,” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, November 2011. Researchers in 2004 and 2007 surveyed approximately 7,000 fifth and eighth graders from public schools in 40 states, concluding that “SSB consumption was not associated with state policy.” In middle schools with no SSB policy and those that prohibited only soda sales, close to 30 percent of the students reported purchasing SSBs, including energy or fruit drinks, on campus. Moreover, the study found that state policies banning all SSBs in middle schools “appear to reduce in-school access and purchasing of SSBs but do not reduce overall consumption.”

“We found that banning only sodas does nothing to stop kids from buying sugary drinks at school,” said one author with the University of Illinois (UIC) at Chicago’s Bridging the Gap program. “Only when sales of all sugar-sweetened beverages—sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks—were prohibited, did we see fewer students buying such drinks at school.”

According to a November 7, 2011, UIC press release, the study authors also noted that additional strategies—“such as sugar-sweetened beverage taxes and regulations of food marketing aimed at children”—were needed to curtail SSB consumption outside school. “This study tells us that it will take comprehensive beverage policies to create a healthier school environment and decrease the amount of sugary beverages students purchase at school,” another author was quoted as saying. “At the same time, it underscores the importance of policies that extend beyond schools to discourage consumption of sugary beverages—and encourage children to purchase and drink healthy beverages, like water, low-fat milk and 100% juice.” See The New York Times Well Blog, November 7, 2011.