Category Archives: Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax

Should sodas carry warning cigarette-style warning labels?

sugary-soda-del1014-lgnSugary sodas have been in the news constantly over the last few years. FoodFacts.com has seen New York City consider and dismiss a ban against larger sized sugary beverages. We’ve watched Berkeley, California institute a nominal soda tax and San Francisco consider and dismiss the same. We’re even watching the federal government mull over a national soda tax.

While thus far these initiatives haven’t gone anywhere, the news surrounding soda is serving to educate consumers about exactly how unhealthy the chemical concoctions really are.

Americans are waking up to the dangers of drinking sugary sodas in excess. Now that science is increasingly showing a link between high sugar consumption and chronic disease like diabetes and obesity, some lawmakers think it’s time to warn people about the detrimental health effects of drinking soda much like cigarette labeling did in the 1960′s.
In New York, Brooklyn lawmaker Karim Camara is proposing a state law requiring sugary sodas to carry a warning label: “SAFETY WARNING: DRINKING BEVERAGES WITH ADDED SUGAR CONTRIBUTES TO OBESITY, DIABETES AND TOOTH DECAY.”

“I firmly believe that this will lead to a reduction in people drinking soda and in children drinking soda,” Camara told CBS News.

Camara calls his labeling initiative “public education” and likens it to seeing calorie counts posted on the pastry case at Starbucks. He says when he sees that a donut has 400 calories he chooses the healthier option because he’s informed.

While cigarette warning labels played a role in informing the public about the dangers of smoking and reducing the popularity of cigarette smoking in America, warning labels alone may not be enough.

According to the CDC, higher costs for tobacco products through increased excise taxes, along with mass-media campaigns targeted toward youth to counter tobacco marketing, also contribute to reducing smoking and preventing teens from starting a tobacco habit.

In recent years, American legislators have been trying a variety of tactics to make sugary drinks less attra many have failed. In 2010, then New York Gov. David Paterson sought a penny-an-ounce “fat tax” on soda and other sugary drinks. After a multi-million-dollar campaign by the beverage industry claiming the tax would cost jobs, the state legislature turned down what would have amounted to a 12-cent tax on a can of Coke. But, in an ironic twist, they agreed to add another $1.60 in taxes to the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

A few years later, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried a different approach by banning the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, delis and other outlets. The ban was thrown out by the courts without ever taking effect.

Now, the soda tax idea may be getting a second wind. Voters in Berkeley, California, recently passed the nation’s first soda tax, a penny an ounce, in order to curb the consumption of sugary drinks. However, across the bay in San Francisco, voters rejected a proposed 2-cents an ounce soda tax.

Passing this type of legislation takes time, effort, and money. Is it really worth it?

Camara, the author of the warning-label bill, thinks so. “The people that are disproportionately affected by diabetes are poor or people of color, and I believe increasing awareness will help parents stop giving soda to their children,” he says.

“Government action to address the dangers of sugary drinks is crucial as the epidemics of obesity and diabetes continue to wreak havoc on the health of our communities. We commend Assembly Member Camara for taking this important step,” the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

Warning labels on sodas. We’re not sure how well that will work. Honestly, we’re not so sure how well it worked with cigarettes. It’s more likely that the higher taxes imposed on every pack that hit smokers in their wallets had a larger effect. Sugary soda taxes might be the way to go.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-drinking-soda-the-new-smoking/

Looking to hold on to your youth as long as possible? Don’t drink soda!

soda and cell agingWe’ll admit it. FoodFacts.com is always pleased to discover additional reasons for people to stay away from soda. Terrible ingredients. Meaningless nutritional value. We can think of so many better ways to quench thirst than with carbonated chemicals. So whenever we run across information that gives us another great excuse to find those better ways, we’re pretty quick to share that news with our community. Today we found one of the most important pieces of information we’ve seen to date.

A first-of-its-kind study looked at whether America’s thirst for soda speeds up how the body’s cells age.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco used a sample of 5,300 healthy adults. Doctor Elissa Epel worked on the study for five years.

“We think we can get away with drinking lots of soda as long as we are not gaining weight, but this suggests that there is an invisible pathway that leads to accelerated aging, regardless of weight,” said Doctor Epel.

Epel’s team discovered that in people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages, the ends of their chromosomes, known as telomeres, were shorter. The shorter the telomere, the less a cell can regenerate, aging the body, and raising the risk of disease and early death.

“This finding is alarming because it suggests that soda may be aging us, in ways we are not even aware of,” said Doctor Epel.

Researchers found no link in cell aging, however, when drinking diet sodas and fruit juices. Concerned about possible health effects, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lost a high-profile court battle to ban large sodas there. He’s now supporting a measure on the November ballot in Berkeley, California that would tack on a one-cent-per-ounce tax on soda distributors.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently tax sodas sold in vending machines. But helped by ad campaigns from various groups, soda companies are on a four-year winning streak at the state house: 30 bills to levy or raise taxes on sugary drinks have all failed.

The American beverage association would not do an interview today about the study, but pointed out the researchers did not find a conclusive link between soda and cell aging.

We understand that the link isn’t conclusive and that more research is certainly needed. We’re pretty sure, though, that just about everyone we know would gladly make some small dietary changes to slow down their bodies’ aging process. Staying away from soda isn’t a difficult proposition. There are so many reasons it’s a worthwhile decision. Go ahead, give it a try — you’re body will thank you for it!

http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/study-shows-soda-may-accelerate-cell-aging-19415.shtml

Proposed Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Under Federal Consideration

Three Soda BottlesWe followed the fate of the proposed Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Ban in New York City and watched as it was defeated. Former Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to curtail the sweet tooth of millions of New Yorkers was met with everything from applause to extreme criticism. A pizzeria in Manhattan actually refused to serve the former mayor a second slice of pizza, telling him that if he wanted to force New Yorkers to count their calories and reduce their sugar intake, the pizzeria could also control his. While that made for some memorable headlines, there are many who still believe that the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Ban (which applied only to drinks over 16 ounces) was a healthy move for New Yorkers. In that spirit, the federal government is moving towards its own version of health-oriented legislation.

For the first time since 2009, legislation proposing a national tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages is under consideration in the House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act — or SWEET Act — last week.

The bill would levy an excise tax on sugar content in beverages. Under the SWEET Act, manufacturers would pay a tax of one cent per teaspoon of sugar or other sweetener added to most beverages. For point of reference, a 20-ounce soda contains 16 teaspoons of sugar. The tax works out to just under a penny-per-ounce of beverage. Drinks such as milk, infant formula, alcoholic beverages and many juices are excluded.

But because the tax is based on amount of sugar and not on ounces of beverage, the federal approach is “a built-in incentive for manufacturers to diminish the concentration of sugar,” says Dr. Lynn Silver with Oakland’s Public Health Institute. Silver and other PHI staff gave input to DeLauro’s staff in formulating the bill and also has been part of the Berkeley coalition that helped draft the measure there.

She said the national approach is different from local efforts, because a graduated tax is “more complicated” to implement at the local level. “It makes more sense at the federal level which has the resources to track down all the beverages and figure out how much they should be taxed,” Silver said. “But for smaller communities, that would be challenging.”
One of the first questions that reasonably pops into people’s minds when they hear about such a bill is what is the possibility of it passing? Silver countered that question with a question: “How many times did health care reform get introduced? Lots. Almost a hundred years before it actually passed — and it passed in pieces, with Medicare and Medicaid each being created separately.”

Silver said she expected “many attempts and incremental efforts to really make change.”

Mexico passed a similar soda tax to the one proposed — a peso per ounce, or about 10 percent — which took effect in January. The Wall Street Journal reported in late February that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages promptly dropped 5 to 7 percent. At the same time, consumption of diet sodas and bottled water are up.

“I think the first lesson of the Mexican soda tax,” said Silver, “is that it’s working as expected.” People are cutting back on sugary beverages and increasing consumption of more healthy alternatives.

If the SWEET Act passes, the money would go to the Prevention and Public Health Fund created under the Affordable Care Act. In addition to any public health programs the money might fund, a tax is estimated to have modest effects on health, because of reduced consumption of sugar.

A U.C. San Francisco study found that a national penny-per-ounce tax would reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by 15 percent. Researchers said that reduction would lead to modest weight loss and reductions in diabetes. Over 10 years, researchers estimated there would be 26,000 fewer premature deaths, 95,000 fewer instances of heart disease and 8,000 fewer strokes.

The American Beverage Association opposes the tax. A statement on its website is titled, “Taxes Do Not Make People Healthy.”

FoodFacts.com can agree with that general statement. But we’d follow it up with “Taxes can motivate people to consume healthier beverages.”

We all know that as soon as manufacturers are being charged for sugar by the teaspoon in their sodas, iced teas, and some of their juice drinks, they will immediately pass those costs off to their consumers with higher prices. We feel pretty comfortable making the assumption that once prices go up, consumption will go down. Seems like a pretty good reason for those same manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their beverages.

http://blogs.kqed.org/stateofhealth/2014/07/30/national-soda-tax-bill-introduced-in-washington/

The sugary beverage debate continues … would taxing sugar-sweetened drinks help the obesity crisis?

Yesterday, FoodFacts.com noted that the New York State Supreme Court upheld the ruling against the mayor’s proposed ban on sugar-sweetened beverages. The court’s four-judge panel was unanimous in its decision that the New York Board of Health and Mental Hygiene “violated the state principle of separation of powers” with the proposed ban. Many other states were waiting on the Court’s decision with great interest, as their legislatures pondered the introduction of similar bans. The hope for legislation like this is that it would eventually have a positive effect on curtailing and perhaps, even reversing the obesity crisis.

So now that New York won’t be banning the sale of large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages, there are other courses of action for the government to consider – one of them being a federal tax on sugary beverages. Today we learned of a joint study from researchers at RTI International, Duke University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, exploring such a tax.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, found that a half-cent per ounce increase in sugar-sweetened beverage prices, which adds up to about ten cents on a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda, could reduce total calories from the 23 foods and beverages examined under the study. Unfortunately, researchers also found that a reduction in consumption of sugary beverages due to a tax would most likely lead consumers to substitute those beverage calories by increasing their calorie, salt and fat intake from untaxed foods and beverages.

To conduct the study, researchers used data on household food purchases from the 2006 Nielsen Homescan panel, a large national consumer panel maintained by the Nielsen Company. Families in the panel are provided with a handheld scanner and instructed to scan the Universal Product Code (UPC) of products they purchased at retail outlets, record purchase quantities and coupons used and identify the retailer that the product was purchased from. Researchers noted that while levying a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages may seem similar to using taxes to curb smoking habits in the population, it isn’t the same thing. In the case of beverages, consumers can simply substitute an untaxed food item for the taxed beverage. It’s also important to consider that there are many other ways to promote healthy eating and reduce nutrition-related chronic disease.

FoodFacts.com thinks that this study, and others like it, are interesting food for thought regarding our country’s approach to tackling the obesity crisis. Bans on large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages and taxes on sugary drinks might serve to curb the excessive sugar consumption that’s rampant in our population. What it doesn’t serve to do is to recognize the other end of that same problem. The foods and beverages will still be out there on our grocery shelves, in our fast food chains and our smaller food retailers. And those foods and beverages will still contain the excessive amounts of sugar that they contain now. Until processed food products contain less added sugars, we’ll still have a problem in the population, even if proposed regulations might make the problem a little smaller. Educating consumers and promoting nutritional awareness is still the best method of empowering the population and creating real, positive change. Let’s all continue to share our awareness within our own networks. We can all play an important role in reversing the worldwide trend of obesity.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730123106.htm