H-CENTRAL COAST

Apr 26, 2011 1:53 AM by Ariel Wesler

Mixed reaction to proposed state soda tax

A proposed state tax could make you think twice before reaching for that sugary drink.

If passed, the new soda tax would add a penny per fluid ounce on sweetened beverages. That's 12 cents on an average can of soda.

The tax would raise an estimated $1.7 billion statewide to fund programs targeting childhood obesity. San Luis Obispo County would get close to $9 million. Santa Barbara County would receive around $16 million, but some say it's not such a sweet idea.

Sipping soda could cost you some extra cash as the state looks for ways to crack down on childhood obesity.

"41 percent of 2 to 11 year olds drink at least one Coke daily," said Vanessa Stringham, a Health Education Specialist for San Luis Obispo County.

"I think it's crazy. We get taxed on everything. We don't need to be taxed more on soda," said Francesca Costa, who's against the proposal.

The money would go back to schools to fund after school sports, physical education, and other educational programs to fight childhood obesity, some of the same programs already facing state budget cuts. San Luis Obispo County has been running a "Rethink Your Drink" campaign for the last two years.

"Teaching people how to read the labels, figure out how many teaspoons of sugar are inside of certain beverages, even though they look really healthy on the outside," Stringham said.

But opponents argue health education should start at home, not at school.

"That's something that parents should bring up and if you don't want your kids to drink it, don't let them drink it," Costa said.

"I've seen it in my own children, grandchildren some, so I realize it's not somebody else's issue, it's all of ours," said Kathleen McGreevy, who supports the tax. "Anything to help children."

If the tax eventually goes through, buying a can of your favorite would cost you an extra 12 cents, but some say that's not enough to stop people from buying it.

The American Beverage Association says "A new tax on certain beverages will not teach people healthy lifestyles or change their behavior. Making smart, educated decisions about diet and exercise do that."

The tax would not impact diet soda, only drinks with added sugar or corn syrup.

There's still a long road of obstacles. Since it's a tax, it would require a two-thirds super-majority vote in the Assembly and the Senate before moving on to Governor Brown. That means two Republicans from each chamber would have to go against their party's stance of no new taxes.

According to USA Today, more than 30 states have some form of soda tax. A recent poll found 56 percent of California voters would support a soda tax to as an effort to curb childhood obesity.

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