September 17, 2009

Soda Tax Proposed To Fight Obesity, Increase Tax Revenue

Legislators and researchers are pushing for a tax on the nation's sugary soda drinks in order to fight obesity and bring in additional revenue of about $15 billion each year.

A study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy found that 62 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 and 41 percent of children ages 2-11 consume at least one sugary drink each day.

Furthermore, a group of nutrition and economics experts have issued a proposal to apply a one cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks.

"I don't think that most parents truly appreciate the role soda pop has in causing weight gain," said Senator Alex Padilla, who chairs the California Senate's Select Committee on Obesity and Diabetes and is known for heading a campaign for restaurants to post caloric information for menu items.

Authors of the new study said the one cent per ounce tax would add federal revenue while making consumers think twice before drinking sugary high-calorie beverages.

However, the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday issued its newly revised healthcare proposal, which did not include measures to tax soda drinks.

The bill circulating in the House also lacks such a tax, according to the Associated Press, which added that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president would not be likely to urge legislators to include such a measure in future proposals.

"They're at such a fragile place, introducing anything new and big like that into the mold is not likely to happen," Kenneth Thorpe, a health policy researcher at Emory University, told the AP.

Currently, 33 US states have sales taxes on soft drinks, with an average rate of 5.2 percent.

But a national one cent per ounce tax on sodas would generate about $15 billion in the first year, study author Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity concluded.

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson; New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley; University of North Carolina obesity expert Barry Popkin; University of Illinois economist Frank Chaloupka; and Harvard nutrition and obesity experts Dr. Walter Willett and Dr. David Ludwig each co-authored the study.

"We agree that obesity is a serious public health issue, but the solution put forth by these researchers simply won't work," the American Beverage Association said in a statement.

"Reducing obesity will only be addressed through comprehensive solutions," it added.