Local state senator advocates tax on sugary drinks

In July 2014 there is a strong possibility that you will walk into the store to pick up your 99 cent iced tea, only to have the price changed to $1.23 at the register.

California State Senator Bill Monning is in the midst of advocating the passage of a tax on sugary drinks in order to fund childhood obesity programs through the state. The bill calls for a penny-per-ounce excise tax to be placed on the distribution of sugary drinks. As the tax is currently drafted, it would go into effect July 1, 2014.

Although one cent per fluid ounce doesn’t seem like a lot, if the bill were to be passed, consumers would see an increase on $2.88 on a 24-pack of sodas.

In an interview with The Sandpiper, Sen. Monning said, “One of the public health objectives is that by raising the cost to consumers, there would be a decrease in consumption as the prices of these beverages are now less expensive than more helpful choices.”

This idea that as price increases consumption decreases is directly based off of the theory which made California’s renowned tobacco program so successful.

CHS Health teacher Jeff Wright is skeptical of the proposed bill.

“Here comes the government trying to do this again and again and again,” Wright says. “I think it’s a gesture that’s more symbolic and annoying than it is going to be effective.”

In the hearings held with large beverage companies, they have not addressed the health data that Monning has presented, instead asking questions like, “Do you want the government to have this money?”

Monning notes the ironythat these same companies are actively promoting water and vitamin-based beverages, showing that public education is already decreasing consumption.

According to the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” reports, by 2030 the obesity rates in California will double from 23.8 to 46.6 percent.

According to Monning, the consumption of sugary beverages accounts for the overwhelming increase of caloric intake by young people and directly leads to increased risks for obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer. With the lack of nutritional value, it is an easy target for taxes.

“As people get more over-weight and obese, it’s really going to really stress our health care system,” CHS nurse Susan Pierszalowski says, “in the sense that there will be so many people with chronic illnesses.”

And State Sen. Monning says, “The public health threat is real. It’s on us now. It’s not something that we’re saying might happen in the future. The crisis is now.

-HELAINE RIDILLA