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DeLauro Introduces Bill to Tax Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

On Wednesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) Act — a tax on drinks such as sodas, energy drinks, sweet teas and sports drinks that she first announced at the National Soda Summit in Washington, D.C., on June 5.

The SWEET Act would institute an excise tax of 1 cent per teaspoon— 4.2 grams — of caloric sweetener, including sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. This would add about 9 cents to the cost of a 12-ounce can of Coke.

Exceptions to the rule include milk and plant-based milk substitutes, 100-percent fruit or vegetable juices, infant formula, dietary aids and alcoholic beverages.

Currently, there are some small sales taxes on sodas in food stores and vending machines in more than 30 states and D.C., but proposed excise taxes — those that are levied on the beverage distributor and then cause shelf prices to rise — have failed to come to fruition in several states and cities.

The next battlegrounds over sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes are San Francisco and Berkeley, CA, where the proposals have been put on the general-election ballot in November.

DeLauro and other proponents of SSB taxes argue that they can help with the national epidemics of obesity and diabetes by directing consumers away from the products and also raising money to fund prevention and treatment programs and with research and nutrition education to help reduce the human and economic costs of related health problems.

“There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay,” DeLauro said in a statement. “We are at a crucial tipping point, and the SWEET Act will help correct the path we are currently on.”

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons and men no more than nine teaspoons of sugar per day. A 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains about nine teaspoons of sugar.

“Overweight and obesity are responsible for an estimated $190 billion in health care costs nationally, or approximately 5 to 10 percent of all medical spending — with over 20 percent of these costs paid publicly through the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” reads the SWEET Act.

Public health and consumer groups that have also thrown their support behind the bill include the American Public Health Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

According to CSPI, the SSB tax would raise around $10 billion a year for diet-related disease prevention programs.

However, not everyone supports the bill. One major opponent is the American Beverage Association (ABA) — the trade association that represents America’s non-alcoholic beverage industry and has members such as the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Honest Tea Inc., Kraft Foods, ROCKSTAR Inc. and Red Bull North America Inc.

“The soda tax is an old idea that has gotten no traction in federal government, states and cities across the U.S.,” said Christopher Gindlesperger, ABA’s senior director for public affairs. “People don’t support taxes and bans on common grocery items, like soft drinks. That’s why the public policy debate in the U.S. has moved away from taxes and bans and onto real solutions.”

Gindlesperger added that ABA has voluntarily removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools nationwide, placed calorie labels on all packaging and vending machines, and supports community programs that promote balanced diets and physical activity.

ABA also argues that SSBs are not the main source of added sugars for children and teens and that a tax on sugary drinks unfairly singles out the industry.

Supporters of failed proposals to tax SSBs in New York, California, Maine, Washington and elsewhere have said that the attempts still got the public’s attention and helped to spread awareness.

“I wouldn’t put money on this Congress’s doing anything so likely to promote health, but it seems pretty clear that the time for sugary taxes has come,” Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and professor of sociology at New York University, told Food Safety News.

“Whether the sugar and soda lobbies can keep fending them off is another matter,” she said. “At some point, they may get tired of pouring millions into defeating these initiatives and even more millions into electing members of Congress who will support them.”

Nestle added that DeLauro is “courageous to give this a try and bring the matter to public attention.”

© Food Safety News
  • Jennifer

    What people eat or drink is not the problem with all these growing health concerns, the problem is our people. We are lazy, therefore we do not exercise like we should. Personally I eat plenty of sugar and soda and am still as healthy as a horse because I exercise daily and take proper care of myself. Food isn’t the problem, laziness is. We need to create more greenways, side walks, bike lanes, and more public parks to allow people to have the proper places to work out. We need to educate people on balancing their life style and getting off the couch.

    • http://www.ameribev.org/ American Beverage Association

      As you rightly point out, good health is a broader discussion that encompasses all calories we consume, and most certainly how intake is offset by physical activity. This perspective is, frankly, what should be driving meaningful discussions and solutions. After all, targeting sugar-sweetened beverages with a tax won’t communicate this important balance – and it won’t change behaviors either. Education – not regulation – is a more productive path. Thank you for the insightful comment.
      -American Beverage Association

  • Ay.

    It has been sometime since I stopped consuming soft drinks. I don’t think that I find them to be particularly beneficial when compared to water or fruit juices.

    It seems clear that weight loss could lead to a certain body type. Nonetheless, based on what I have read it appears that losing weight could lead to other benefits too. Effectively, I have read that losing weight may have a positive health effect on: helping with knee pain, reduce bad cholesterol, helping lower blood pressure, helping with the risk of cardiovascular disease, help lowering the risk of kidney stones.

    If you too who feels that there is no point in being starved by a diet or enslaved by a workout, check this page out and watch the video it links to: specialfatloss.com

    Long term weight loss is what seems to make the difference.

  • George Smith

    I seriously wonder if Ms.DeLauro has read the Declaration of Independence, This is taxation without representation 2 centuries later. If she is really concerned about obesity and health perhaps she could propose changes to the education of our students. PE class should be mandatory in every grade, and could/should incorporate health ed, nutrition, etc…
    Tie in the real world biology to interest the students and give them a big picture as to why it’s important. Teachers get jobs, kids get education and health, win win.

    • David Clough

      She is a representative in the US Congress. You know where the Constitution allows tax laws to be created. Just saying.

  • Craig Lambert

    As the great Dean in Animal House said, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.” While this premise may be true, the liberty and freedom we have (or had) in this country allow an individual to do legally as they please BUT live with the consequences. Personal responsibility for liberty and freedom are gone. Now, the DeLauro’s of the world want to play the role of Mommy to every simpleton. The basic idea that society will pay to fix a problem that you behaved your way into is the fallacy that has this nation on its last leg. Permanent assistance from the government (or your mommy and daddy or the rich uncle) will never benefit the society as a whole in the long run. Assistance for 90% of those on it should be temporary with the goal of restoring the recipients dignity to work hard and provide for themselves. In turn, they will provide for the others in their community by their ingenuity and hard work. The mental and physically incapable are obviously another story.

  • David Clough

    Past research has tied red meat to increased risks of diabetes,
    cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. The studies have also
    pointed to an elevated risk of mortality from red meat intake. Time to tax red meat too !!! Or how about we stop adding taxes to everything and just let people eat what they want to.