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Soda Tax Vote Today in California State Assembly

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PHOTO: California lawmakers are considering a new tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that would raise an estimated $3 billion a year to pay for anti-diabetes programs. Photo credit: Jane M. Sawyer/Morguefile.
PHOTO: California lawmakers are considering a new tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that would raise an estimated $3 billion a year to pay for anti-diabetes programs. Photo credit: Jane M. Sawyer/Morguefile.
May 12, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The price of soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages could go up in the Golden State if a new tax being considered in Sacramento is approved. The measure could mean paying an additional $1.34 for a two-liter bottle of soda.

The Assembly Committee on Health is expected to vote today on AB 1357, a bill that would charge distributors two cents an ounce and raise an estimated $3 billion a year for programs to combat diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Raul Gutierrez, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Heart Association and Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, says diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in California.

"It's been shown with pretty strong evidence sugar-sweetened beverages are very much linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and dental caries," says Gutierrez, "as well as renal disease, eye disease, amputations and such."

Supporters say studies show one of every three children born after 2000 will develop diabetes. That number jumps to one out of two for Latino and African-American children.

Opponents say the tax amounts to a government overreach that will unfairly burden consumers, but Gutierrez says it costs "a lot less" to prevent diabetes than to pay for treatment.

"Diabetes is costing California almost $24 billion a year," he says. "Direct medical costs, hospitalizations, and of course people are already paying for this through their premiums from insurances."

The bill is based on a similar program in Mexico, where that nation has seen a 10 percent drop in sales of sugary drinks and a corresponding increase in purchases of milk, fruit juices and water.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA