California lawmaker proposes penny tax on sweetened drinks

February 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Some health experts and lawmakers are calling the obesity problem an epidemic and targeting one type of food to stop it.

State Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Carmel) wants to add a penny-per-ounce tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. He would tax the manufacturers and distributors, but they'd likely pass that on to consumers, which is exactly what the assemblyman wants.

"Yes, our intent is to see that retail price go up, to dissuade some people from using it as a diet staple," said Monning.

The California Center for Public Health Advocacy says the average Californian drinks the equivalent of 39 pounds of sugar a year from sweetened beverages, from sports drinks to sodas.

If the penny tax were to pass, that's more than $6 a year extra from each drinker, $1.7 billion annually, to fund children's health programs.

John Calderia buys a liter of soda every day for lunch.

"Thirty-three cents extra -- oh man, I may have to start drinking Kool-Aid," said Calderia.

The California Nevada Soft Drink Association thinks it's unfair to blame one food category for the obesity problem.

"Taxes do not make people healthier. Making smart, educated decisions about diet and exercise do," said Bob Achermann, the executive director of the California/Nevada Soft Drink Association.

Artificial sweeteners don't count under this proposal.

The tax would only apply to sugar-sweetened drinks. If approved, consumers could see regular sodas costing more than diet drinks.

Still, that penny irritates a good number of soda drinkers.

"I think it's kind of unfair," said soda-drinker Joshua McMillian. "It seems like the government's trying to go after more money."

"I think it's ridiculous because it's just too much. They already have the CRV tax," said soda-drinker Jennie Matos.

"If this epidemic isn't curbed, this could be the first generation of kids in modern history that would have a shorter life expectancy than their parents," said Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the Calif. Center for Public Health Advocacy.


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