DeLauro seeks national tax on soda, sweetened drinks

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, July 30, 2014 -- Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro today introduced a bill that would impose a national tax on sweetened beverages. The measure would be paid by producers - and ultimately by consumers - and the money raised would be used to combat health problems related to sugar consumption, including diabetes and obesity.

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The Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) Act would institute a tax of 1 cent per teaspoon of caloric sweetener, such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, with the aim of discouraging excessive sugar in beverages. It's estimated the bill would raise the cost of a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola by about 10 cents.

“People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy, DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a news release. “But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs. There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay. We are at a crucial tipping point and the SWEET Act will help correct the path we are currently on.”

DeLauro said sugar-related diseases are responsible for an estimated $190 billion in annual health care costs, over 20 percent of which are paid by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid. The bill is supported by a coalition of public health and consumer groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the American Public Health Association and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

CSPI noted that 39 states, as well as the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C., already have small sales taxes on soda and that health groups have been calling for larger excise taxes in line with what De Lauro is proposing. In November, San Francisco residents will vote on a 2 cent per ounce soda tax, while neighboring Berkeley has a 1 cent per ounce tax on the ballot.

DeLauro's tax plan, if approved, would probably “put a modest dent in consumption,” CSPI said, “but also enough to raise on the order of $10 billion a year for diet-related disease prevention programs.”

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