Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) proposed a bill that taxes sweet drinks sold in California a penny per teaspoon. The money will help fund obesity prevention programs.
For the average can of Pepsi, the tax would add an extra nine or 10 cents. A bottle of Gatorade would cost about 15 cents more. Florez hopes SB 1210, symbolizing 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12 ounce can of soda, will raise $1.5 billion a year for cash-strapped schools and cities.
Florez said there is overwhelming evidence of the link between obesity and consumption of sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas and sports drinks. Americans on average are now consuming 278 additional calories than they were in 1977, and 120 of these calories can be attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which sponsors the bill.
In California, obesity rates have increased about three-fold since 1984 to 24.3 percent in 2008.
For every additional serving of a sweetened beverage that a child consumes each day, the likelihood of the child becoming obese increases by 60 percent, according to the CCPHA. Forty-one percent of California children age two to 11 and 62 percent of California teenagers ages 12 to 17 drink soda daily.
The number of overweight children has more than quadrupled among ages six to 11 and nearly tripled among those between 12 and 19, leading to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, asthma and breathing problems. Up to 60 percent of obese children ages five to 10 years have early signs of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. If the current obesity trends are not reversed, experts predict one in three children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.
The Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that lobbies on behalf of hospitality industries, believes politicians are oblivious to the science. The group says the politicians’ real motivation is to find another source of revenue to subsidize government spending.
Senior science and technology major Michelle Espiritu believes this will not affect soda sales.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Espiritu said. “It might make people not want to buy as much soda, but compared to something as tuition increases, I don’t think people will really care.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced a cell-phone labeling bill, concerning radiation, though he has acknowledged danger from cell phone radiation must be researched further. SB 1212, similar to proposals in San Francisco and Maine, was announced alongside the Environmental Working Group’s annual report on cell phone radiation levels.
Larry Venus, a spokesman for incoming Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Inland Empire) said some Republicans believe these types of bills are unnecessary.
“Government doesn’t do a good job of operating very many programs,” Venus told the Daily Democrat. “These kinds of proposals generally have a negative impact on business.”
According to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, there were about 270 million cell phone subscribers in the United States as of December 2008, or 87 percent of the population.
Leno said the government is in place to protect consumers, and this bill would be similar to requiring citizens to wear seat belts for their safety.
“The federal government already suggests the risks of cell phones,” Leno said. “There is no government requirement for manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their phones over the decades. It makes perfect sense for consumers to be provided with health-related information when buying products, so they can make informed decisions.”
Both bills were introduced Feb. 18 and will be eligible to be heard in policy committees in the Senate in mid-March.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.