A Connecticut lawmaker hopes to open another front in the war on childhood obesity and diabetes. On Wednesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would impose a national tax on sugary soft drinks.
DeLauro’s legislation, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Act, would levy a one-cent excise tax for every teaspoon of sugar within a beverage. DeLauro believes that her legislation would improve overall national health by discouraging soda consumption.
“People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy,” DeLauro said. “But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs.”
Introduced on the eve of August recess, the bill stands little chance at passage. DeLauro hopes, however, to raise the issue’s national spotlight. Wednesday marks the first time a soda tax has come to the floor since 2009 when lawmakers contemplated a similar tax to fund the Affordable Care Act.
Harold Goldstein, the executive director of the California Center for Public Health, predicts DeLauro’s legislation would “do more to curb the diabetes and obesity epidemics than anything that has been done to date.”
The American Beverage Association argues that argument has gone flat and furthermore that a soda tax is a historic non-starter that’s already failed.
“People don’t support taxes and bans on common grocery items, like soft drinks,” Christopher Gindlesperger, an ABA spokesman said. “That’s why the public policy debate in the U.S. has moved away from taxes and bans and onto real solutions.”
Politicians should focus on more pressing issues “and leave the grocery shopping to us” Gindlesperger said.
Chris Dubay, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, agrees and notes that the bill “is not the proper way to use the tax code.”
Dubay fears the measure would turn government revenue collection “into a political tool” and open the door to future persecution of “other political pariahs.”