CSPI defends sugar-drink tax in America

By Nichola Murphy
Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

Excess consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to rising obesity rates, and some states in America have begun to act on this over the past few years with the use of sugar taxes. However, government officials recently voted to repeal the tax on sugary drinks in Illinois, an action CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) opposes.

Although a number of sugar taxes have successfully been implemented in several states such as California, they have often caused significant opposition between the soft drink industry and public health groups. Only two months after the country’s largest soda tax went into effect on 2 August, Commissioners in Cook County, Illinois, voted 15-2 to end the tax starting on 1 December.

Some have argued that the tax’s failure in Cook County, along with Santa Fe earlier this year, marks the gradual demise of the national soda tax movement.

“It doesn’t matter if you tax tea or sugar,” said Commissioner Richard Boykin, who represents the West Side of Chicago, referencing the run-up to the Revolutionary War. “Eventually people say ‘enough is enough’.”

The soft drink industry has actively opposed the penny-per-ounce sugary drinks tax. For example, the Can the Tax Coalition in Cook County, an anti-tax group funded by the American Beverage Association, spent over US$3.2 million on TV and radio ads. They argued it targeted the county’s poorest citizens and hampered local businesses, and the repeal of the tax is set to be a victory for the industry.

With the battle between health officials and the soft drink industry continuing, CSPI Health Promotion Policy Director Jim O’Hara released the following statement in support of the sugar tax:

“The Cook County Board of Commissioners’ vote today will not change the momentum these common-sense policies have. Sugar-drink taxes have been successfully implemented in seven jurisdictions across the United States in the last four years. Evaluations of the first such U.S. tax, in Berkeley, CA, and another from Mexico have shown decreased consumption of sugar drinks and increased consumption of healthy beverages, while providing needed revenues for other public health measures. Big Soda’s resistance to these policies is not new, but that will not change other communities’ consideration of them.”

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