Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Soda Tax Could Be Added To Your Tab

A proposed California tax of one penny per one ounce of a sweetened drink could raise $1.7 billion for the state's education and anti-obesity programs.

Soda

Photo: Thom Watson (flickr)

Will taxing the sale of soda help curb the obesity crisis?

California Soda Tax Gains Momentum

The disputed soda tax may be making a comeback as it gains ground in the California legislation. In April, Assembly Bill 699, introduced by Bill Monning, D-Carmel, moved to the California Senate.

Similar to other bills that have been proposed across the country in cities like New York and Washington D.C., Assembly Bill 699 would charge consumers one penny of tax for every ounce of a drink that has added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This would increase the price of a 12-oz. can of soda by 12 cents. Diet sodas would not be affected.

The soda tax, estimated to raise $1.7 billion in funds for California, would go to programs that fight the obesity crisis, specifically in children.

Fighting The Obesity Epidemic Pennies At A Time

It is estimated that for every 10 percent raise in price on soda, 8 percent less people will buy it. This could help people reconsider the long-term negative effects of sugary drinks while not make it prohibitively expensive if they still choose to purchase it.

Steven Kelder, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas speculates that a soda tax may “reduce the average person’s consumption by 10 gallons per year.”

Sugary beverages have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and diseases. Advocates of the soda tax say that taxpayers are already funding healthcare costs of these diseases, so anything that helps improve the overall health of the country will save taxpayers money in the long run.

The Soda Tax In Schools

Supports say that the major benefit of the soda tax will be how the revenue is used.

Funds raised by the tax will be spent on a number of different health-related programs, such as physical education in schools and buying more whole and fresh foods for school lunch programs. It is estimated that the soda tax will generate $233 per student.

Additionally, California may be able to use the tax money to fund community projects, such as improving water quality for those who do not have access to potable tap water and building outdoor exercise spaces like parks.

Critics: No More Taxes!

Critics disagree. Lead by the American Beverage Association, they says that adding a tax to beverages will not stop people from purchasing them, just as adding a tax to cigarettes has not stopped people from smoking. They argue that it is not the government’s duty to teach people healthy eating habits, but rather for parents to teach their children whether or not to consume sugary beverages.

Some say that the soda tax targets lower income Americans, who are twice as likely to be obese or have Type-2 diabetes than wealthier households. This argument has also been added to the debate on whether or not food stamps should be used to buy soda.

Lawmakers, especially Republican lawmakers, are struggling with the idea of introducing a new tax during the end of the recession.

“I don’t think there’s the stomach in the Legislature for new taxes,” says Bob Achermann of the California-Nevada Soft Drink Association. He opposes this soda tax.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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