Florez proposes soda tax to fund obesity prevention programs

February 18, 2010

UPDATED at 4:27 pm.

California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has introduced legislation to tax sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages to fund childhood obesity programs.

The bill would levy a penny tax for every teaspoon of added sugar in commercial beverages sold. Florez estimates that the excise tax on beverage distributors would raise $1.5 billion annually. The money would go to California cities and schools to pay for childhood obesity prevention programs.

“I don’t want obesity to be the legacy that we leave to our children,” Sen. Florez said at a press conference. “With the revenues raised from this bill, we can support schools and build communities where children are active, eating healthier foods and putting the threat of obesity and related diseases like diabetes behind them.”

Florez said he was prompted the introduce the bill by what he called a “growing body of research’ highlighting the central role of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages in promoting obesity.

Skeptics have said the connection between soda and obesity has not been proven despite a number of studies testing that hypothesis. But research released last year by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that adults in California who drank a soda or more a day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese. Californians consume 50 gallons of soda a year containing the equivalent of 39 pounds of sugar.

“If we’re going to make any headway in addressing the obesity epidemic, we have to start with the biggest culprit, and that’s clearly soda,” said Dr. Harold Goldstein, director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, said in a written statement. “Soda is the one specific product for which we have overwhelming evidence of its direct link to obesity.”

Goldstein said it is expected that one-third of children born in 2000 will have diabetes sometime in their lives, including 50 percent for Latino and African American children.

Photo by Marlith.

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