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Study: State soda tax would net $1B+ per year

April 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new proposed tax on sodas could be used to fight childhood obesity. A study released Thursday says the tax could raise nearly $2 billion statewide and would all go to create prevention programs.

The new report found a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in California would raise an average of $233 per student per year for programs and activities that help kids battle weight problems -- more than a billion dollars total.

Co-author Dr. Harold Goldstein says soda is one of the leading causes of obesity and in these tough budget times, schools need all the financial help they can get.

"We're talking about healthier school meals, P.E. programs, afterschool programs, community sports programs for our kids," said Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

In Los Angeles County, a soda tax would bring in $370 million. Orange County would get $117 million; Riverside County stands to gain $96 million. San Bernardino would receive $94 million and Ventura County would get $33 million.

But the beverage industry says it's unfair to pick on one thing when a wide array of other foods also causes obesity.

"It's not a question of the merits of those programs. It's a question of whether or not it's appropriate to tax one beverage as a way to address the obesity problem," said Bob Achermann, executive director of the California/Nevada Soft Drink Association.

A state assembly committee will debate the soda tax next week at a time when tax hikes have been unpopular among voters in the last few elections.

A 16-oz. Dr. Pepper soda sells for 99 cents. Add the soda tax, the sales and the California Redemption Value (CRV) fee, the total becomes $1.35.

But some public high-school kids from Oxnard say their campus could certainly use the extra money.

"Look at me. I'm fat. They give us pizza and hamburgers, and they're really nasty. But if they give us some money, we can improve," said high-school senior Khristian Batista.

The beverage industry points out caloric intake, moderation and exercise are the solutions to the obesity problem.