March 7, 2011
For Immediate Release
Proposed Tax Would Reduce Child Obesity, Bring in over $2 billion in Revenue
Overweight kids expected to lose nearly 5 pounds per year if SB 1004 or HB 2214 pass
AUSTIN - Bills just introduced in the Texas Legislature to add a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks would aggressively combat the state's high rate of child obesity, while delivering over $2 billion in new revenue for the state. Texas has the nation's seventh-highest child obesity rate, and SB 1004 (Lucio) and HB 2214 (Farias) both target the single largest source of sugar and calories in children's diets.
The measures would raise funds from the sale of drinks like soda that could then be used to pay for effective obesity prevention programs, now slated for budget cuts. Bottled waters, milk, real fruit juice and some other beverages would be exempt from the tax.
"We are heartened to see members of the Texas Legislature consider measures that would do for child obesity what tobacco taxes did for smoking: reverse a harmful trend that is costly to Texas," said Eileen Garcia, CEO of Texans Care for Children. "Last month the State Comptroller reported obesity costs Texas businesses $9.5 billion per year, a number set to climb far higher when today's children enter the workforce. We can't let corporate interests come before the health of our state's children and the financial well being of our state."
The equivalent of a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks like soda would lead the average overweight child to lose 4.5 pounds per year, while the average adult would lose 3.8 pounds per year, according to a study by the USDA. Because children drink more sugary drinks and are more sensitive to price, they would be most likely to experience the health benefits of the law.
Research last year by the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living found, among Texas teenagers, 35% of boys and 22% of girls consume three or more sugar-loaded drinks every day, which can be the equivalent of nearly two pounds of sugar a week. The food and beverage industry spends $400 million a year marketing sugary drinks to children, far more than it spends trying to sell children any other category of products. In the last 30 years, children's consumption of sugary drinks has more than doubled, alongside their rates of obesity. Despite sugary drinks' well-documented link to obesity, the industry has spent millions of dollars lobbying against proposals similar to the two Texas bills in states across the country.
"In prior sessions, our lawmakers have shown strong bipartisan support for curbing childhood obesity," Garcia said. "This year, with so much at stake, we need lawmakers to stand up to industry lobbyists and put Big Soda back in its place, so we can turn the tide on obesity."