Have a Coke and a Tax

Image via Flickr user gcardinal by Creative Commons License

Before long, Californians may have to pay extra cash for consuming sugary beverages.

On May 12, 2010, the state’s Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation will consider Senate Bill 1210, which would place a state excise tax of one penny per teaspoon of added sugar on beverages sweetened with sugar, including soft drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas, and sports drinks. The estimated $1.5 billion raised by the tax would be used to fund childhood obesity programs in the state, including physical education classes and healthful school meals. 

Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter), SB 1210 is sponsored by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), which, in a prepared document about the bill, notes that nearly 16 million Californians are obese or overweight. 

“There are 10 teaspoons of sugar in every 12 oz can of soda and a child’s risk of obesity increases an average of 60% with each additional daily serving of soda,” the CCPHA document reads. “Yet, a study released last year by the CCPHA and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that 41% of children ages 2-11 and 62% of adolescents ages 12-17 consume at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day.” 

What are your thoughts? Do you think this is bill is a good idea?

— Doug Brunk (on Twitter at dougbrunk)

3 Comments

Filed under Family Medicine, Health Policy, IMNG, Pediatrics

3 responses to “Have a Coke and a Tax

  1. Joan Doyle

    Is taxing the parents really the way to stop the consumption of sugary soft drinks? Wouldn’t education work better? This really is just a way to raise revenue disguised as “for your health”.

  2. mzoler

    Uncharacteristically, California is slightly behind the curve on this one. In early March, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter proposed in his draft 2011 budget a 2 cent/ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, a move aimed at both improving public health and, probably more importantly, raising a projected $77 million/year for a budget that currently has a revenue gap. The proposal also earmarked $20 million of the anticipated new revenue toward obesity-prevention programs.

    According to subsequent news reports in Philadelphia, the only U.S. municipality with such a tax is Chicago, which has collected a 3% tax on sweetened beverages since 1994, but the Philadelphia proposal would make the public pay a much higher premium for sugary soft drinks.

    The budget is still under debate, and the propopsal has garnered opposition from a variety of local interests, including, of course, local soda bottlers and the union members who drive their trucks, as well as several speakers at neighborhood public hearings, and even in an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which declared the measure “unlikely to improve the health of residents.”

    But the Inky may have mispoke. Coincidently, a report appeared during all this controversy in the March 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, in which analysis of a U.S. study showed that “policies aimed at altering the price of soda…may be effective mechanisms to steer U.S. adults toward a more healthful diet and help reduce long-term weight gain or insulin levels.” (Arch Intern Med 2010;170:420-6).

    —Mitchel Zoler

  3. M.Lopez

    Though I would not be directly affected by the bill, as I am a non-drinker (of soda), I would be hesitant to support this measure, fearing many would be prone to switching to diet products. It is my understanding that in the long term, sugar may be less harmful than sugar alternatives. Yes, this may “help reduce long-term weight gain or insulin levels,” (Arch Intern Med 2010;170:420-6) however a high consumption of diet products may increase instances of other diseases, like cancer.

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