Study: Soda tax could generate big money for schools

April 21, 2011 5:14:58 PM PDT
Your favorite soft drink could cost you more. Lawmakers are considering a soda tax as a way to raise extra money and battle childhood obesity, and it could raise a billion dollars in California. But the idea has its critics.

A study out Thursday gives momentum to the soda tax bill that's making its way through the Legislature. The new report by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy 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, PE programs, afterschool programs, community sports programs for our kids," says Goldstein

In Santa Clara County, a soda tax would bring in $63 million. Alameda County would get $51 million and Contra Costa stands to gain $39 million.

But the beverage industry says it's unfair to pick on one thing when a wide array of foods are unhealthy.

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

An 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 that sells for 99 cents becomes $1.35 after you add the soda tax, the sales and the CRV. However, public high school kids from Oxnard say their campus could certainly use the extra money.

"They give us pizza and hamburgers, and they're really nasty," says high school senior Khristian Batista. "But if they give us some money, we can improve."

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


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