August 16, 2012

Beverage Battles

Communities around the country are considering taxes, regulations and outright bans on unhealthy drinks.

Jessica: The battle on soda is bubbling up from the East Coast to the West Coast.

This is forty pounds of sugar.

That is the same amount every young person drinks on average every year in sodas and other sweet drinks, according to Doctor Jeff Ritterman.

Dr. Jeff Ritterman: These are not innocuous drinks. These are bad for you. This is a bigger killer right now than cigarettes in our country.

Jessica: The doctor and city councilman from Richmond, California is pushing for a new tax on sugary drinks that will be on the ballot this November. The proposal is the first of its kind in the nation because it calls for taxing the businesses that sell the drinks, not the customer buying it. But it will be up to the merchants to decide how to pass along the higher costs.

Stores will have to pay a penny for every ounce of a beverage that contains added calorie-boosting sweeteners. That includes everything from chocolate milk, to nutrition shakes, to sweetened teas, and certain baby formulas.

The measure has started a sweet drink war, with opposing campaigns raising a total of almost $400,000.

“They’re not imposing a tax on the product. They’re imposing a business license tax that is raising the price of doing business in Richmond, and that cost increase is going to get passed along on all products.”

Jessica: In a statement on its website, the American Beverage Association writes: “The body of science proves, and real world evidence demonstrates, that taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages will not have a meaningful impact on obesity.”

It is a war being waged across the country.

“Obesity is killing 5,000 people a year in New York City.”

Jessica: New York City is close to banning the sale of oversized sugary beverages, anything over 16 ounces. California State has already eliminated sodas from its public schools, and the city of El Monte looking at a similar tax proposal to Richmond’s. There are now more than 60 attempts by other state and local governments to crack down on soda consumption as a way to fight obesity.

The federal government is also trying to encourage people to avoid sugary beverages. The Centers for Disease Control says consuming a drink loaded with sugar at every meal can easily add up to almost 800 calories. That is 40% of the total calories a person should consume in one day. Their recommendation? Drink more water.


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