Lawmakers Consider Imposing ‘Sin Tax’ on Soda, Alcohol and Tobacco
The Los Angeles Times on Saturday examined measures proposed in the Legislature that would impose "sin taxes" on soda, alcohol and tobacco.
The California Soda Tax Act (SB 1520), sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), would address childhood obesity and the budget gap, but has been "given little chance of passing," especially during this election year. The bill would impose a surtax of two cents per 12-ounce can on distributors of soda and "other sweetened drinks -- but not diet beverages." The tax could raise up to $300 million annually, which could help "get schools out of the business of selling soda and junk food to children to fund programs" and fund obesity treatment and prevention programs. Ortiz said, "I don't think there's any one staple of a child or teenager's diet that is so utterly devoid of any nutritional value as soda" (Tamaki, Los Angeles Times, 3/30).
Ortiz has also proposed legislation (SB 1890) that would impose a 65-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes, bringing the state's tobacco tax to $1.52, the highest in the country (California Healthline, 3/12). Ortiz said that the tobacco tax increase could raise up to $800 million for tobacco education, cancer research and medical services for the working poor. The Times reports that the Legislature is also considering a package of proposals by Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Alameda), including a bill that calls for a study of the "feasibility of taxing junk foods to pay for dental and health services for children." Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) also is considering legislation that would place a fee on the "retail sale of alcoholic beverages to help fund trauma centers" (Los Angeles Times, 3/30). Romero introduced a bill (SB 1417) last month that would "establish a link between alcohol sales and increased costs to local governments for emergency services." Romero said the proposed "alcohol retailer fee" would be charged on each serving of alcohol purchased in the state. The amount of the fee has yet to be determined (California Healthline, 3/12). Assembly member John Campbell (R-Irvine) called the recent tax bills the "latest attempt to demonize a legal product to justify increasing taxes." He said, "Are they going to tax the butter on my carrots because carrots are healthier without butter? I think if you [eat] too much tofu it's probably bad for you, so does that mean we should tax tofu in big jars?" (Los Angeles Times, 3/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.