, Washington (PressExposure) May 13, 2009 -- OPPONENTS of a proposed federal tax on sodas and other sugary drinks are using the same "tired" tactics employed by the tobacco lobby years ago. That's the view of popular obesity information website ObesityCures.com. Washington leaders are currently discussing ways to pay for President Barack Obama's $1.2-trillion extreme makeover of the health care system... and the "soda tax" could be one of them.
It's estimated that the controversial tax could raise as much as $24bn over the next four years.
Supporters of the tax, like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, say sugary drinks are one of the main culprits in the global obesity epidemic. They argue that a national tax - similar to those levied in at least 12 states already - would cut consumption and make for a healthier nation.
The American Beverage Association, the lobby representing Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods and other big drinks companies, disagrees. It says such a tax would be unfair on lower-income people and would do nothing to cut the amount of sodas and other sugary drinks Americans consume.
"Taxes are not going to teach our children how to have a healthy lifestyle," said association president, Susan Neely. The association backs self regulation, in the form of nationally agreed guidelines, as a way to limit sugary beverage consumption in schools.
But ObesityCures publisher Alan Cooper believes a soda tax would be effective.
"There's plenty of precedent for 'sin taxes' on harmful industries, both to encourage them to moderate their behaviour and to help pay for measures to mitigate the harm they have caused," Cooper said.
"The smoking industry is a perfect example and the anti-soda tax arguments currently being used by the beverage industry mirror those trotted out by the tobacco lobby years ago. They're just as flawed now as they were then. "Ms Nealy says a tax will hurt poor consumers and won't teach our kids to have a healthy lifestyle. Wrong on both counts."
Cooper said lower income consumers were the biggest victims of the obesity epidemic and also the least able to afford the kind of healthcare needed to treat its ills - diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.
"Wouldn't a share of the $24bn soda taxes go some way towards helping the victims? And teaching our kids about healthy lifestyles? Last time I looked, a few billion dollars bought you a lot of education."
Cooper also dismissed the idea of industry self-regulation as an alternative to taxes. "It's another of those tired tobacco lobby tactics. By all means lets have national guidelines. But let's give them teeth and make them federally enforceable.
"This, coupled with a national soda tax, would be the quickest way to encourage beverage makers to produce and market healthier drinks."