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Majority of Californians support soda tax, poll finds

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 21-Apr-2010

A majority of Californians support a tax on soda to help fund childhood obesity reduction programs, according to a poll carried out on behalf of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

The Field Research Corporation surveyed 503 Californian voters about their attitude to a soda tax last month, and found that 56 percent said they were in favor. The sample group was asked: “Some have proposed raising funds for childhood obesity prevention and other children’s health programs through a small tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages. Diet sodas would be excluded. Do you support or oppose this?”

The researchers found that support was particularly high among those living in households earning less than $40,000 a year, at 60 percent, and among Latinos, at 66 percent.

Senior vice president of Field Research Corporation Mark DiCamillo said: "These numbers probably would have been even higher if not for the current economic downturn. Nevertheless, a soda tax has broad acceptance by the majority of Californians."

The survey comes two months after Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez introduced a proposal to levy a one-cent per ounce tax on caloric sweeteners added to soft drinks in the state. The California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) has estimated that the bill could raise $1.5bn a year, with the proceeds going to fund programs to tackle childhood obesity.

CCPHA executive director Dr. Harold Goldstein said: "Californians are deeply concerned about the health of children and are ready to take concrete steps to halt the obesity crisis in our state. They not only have specific ideas of what will make a difference, but are ready to support legislation to make that happen.”

California is not the only state considering a tax on sugary soft drinks.

In other states, New York governor David Paterson revived the idea of a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks in January, as the city looked for ways to close a $7.4bn budget gap. Mississippi’s state representative John Mayo introduced legislation to tax the syrup used to sweeten soda at a distribution level in January. In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed a two-cent per ounce tax on sugared beverages. Kansas Senator John Vratil has put forward a proposal for a penny tax per teaspoon of sugar in soda, and Colorado removed existing tax breaks on sugary beverages and candy.

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