Wall Street Journal Examines Debate Over State Soda Tax Proposal
The Wall Street Journal today examines the debate over imposing an excise tax in California on soda and other sweetened drinks, a proposal that is "winning plaudits from public health organizations" concerned about rising rates of childhood obesity but is "already roiling the soft-drink industry" (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 4/12). On Wednesday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill (SB 1520) that would impose on beverage distributors a two-cent tax per 12-ounce serving of soda and other sweetened beverages such as iced teas. Diet sodas and beverages containing more than 50% natural fruit juice would be exempt from the tax, which would raise an estimated $340 million a year to fund obesity treatment programs. Proponents say that the tax revenue would also help schools to decrease their reliance on money from vending machine contracts with soda companies (California Healthline, 4/11). The Journal reports that soft-drink company officials are "shocked" that soda is being "demonized" as the main cause of childhood obesity. Robert Achermann, a spokesperson for the California Nevada Soft Drink Association, said, "We're very surprised to see soft drinks being elevated to the sin-tax level" and compared with alcohol and cigarettes (Wall Street Journal, 4/12).
While the reasoning behind the soda tax proposal is "honorable," it ignores the fact that teenagers will likely still drink soda, even if they cannot obtain it through school vending machines, columnist Dana Parsons writes in the Los Angeles Times. Dan Brooks, principal of Los Alamitos High School, said, "The reality is that teenagers drink pop, and if they can't get it on campus, they will be bringing it on campus anyway." Parsons concludes that while supporters of the soda tax want to portray schools as "enablers of the students' soft-drink habit," banning soda sales outright would be the only way to "solve the problem" (Parsons, Los Angeles Times, 4/12).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.