It was exciting to see Gov. LePage’s recent interest in supporting nutritious purchases for Maine’s most vulnerable and underserved. It’s a slippery slope, however, to restrict Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program purchases of foods and beverages that contain one target nutrient (e.g., added sugar).

Breads and cereals contain added sugar. So do granola bars and chocolate milk. How do you determine which foods and beverages to restrict? How much of the nutrient is too much (there is no upper limit for sugar)?

He is right: There is a relationship between consumption of added sugar and obesity. Unfortunately, this relationship exists independent of income, which means that non-SNAP recipients also gain weight when their consumption of added sugar increases.

Therefore, it’d be ideal to use obesity-prevention strategies that help all Mainers lead healthier lives, such as incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases and increasing access to potable water. If he is most interested in curbing added sugar consumption, then one evidence-based strategy is a sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

A recent economic analysis found that a $0.01-per-ounce excise tax could raise prices by 16 percent (a 2-liter soda would cost an additional 67 cents); this is sufficient to reduce consumption by 20 percent, either by deterring the purchase, or because a smaller, less expensive size is bought.

Estimates suggest this tax would generate $61 million (2015 dollars) in revenue in Maine, which could be allocated for other obesity-prevention efforts, like reducing food insecurity or promoting SNAP’s nutrition education program, particularly since no money is currently allotted for obesity prevention.

Or, revenues could be allocated for Maine’s public schools so they don’t rely on selling unhealthy foods and beverages to children to fund academic and extracurricular programs.

I encourage Gov. LePage to support evidence-based strategies that equitably encourage healthy decisions for Mainers. One great starting place is ending sales of sugar-sweetened beverages and candy in the State House cafeteria.

Rebecca Boulos

South Portland