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American Beverage Association spent nearly $4m on anti-tax lobbying in Q2

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 19-Aug-2010

Related topics: Regulation, The obesity problem, Soda tax

The American Beverage Association spent $3.5m lobbying the federal government on beverage taxes this month – and a total of $3.95m during the second quarter, according to a disclosure report.

The association, which represents soft drinks manufacturers including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper-Snapple, has increased its spending in opposing taxes as lawmakers have repeatedly proposed taxing sugary drinks. The idea has been raised as a possible way to combat obesity while raising tax revenue. Meanwhile, its opponents say that the beverage industry is being unfairly targeted.

The nearly $4m spent by the association in the second quarter is down on the $5.4m it spent during the first quarter of 2009, but up on the $1.2m it spent in the year ago period.

The possibility of a nationwide beverage tax was effectively quashed for the time being back in February, when a key congressional committee refused to consider such a levy. However, lawmakers have continued to raise the idea at a state level.

The American Beverage Association has consistently opposed beverage taxes.

In response to Mayor Nutter’s proposed tax in Philadelphia, which was shelved in May, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association Susan Neely said that such a tax could cost jobs, and added: “Families are still barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. They are tired of paying more taxes. Adding to their burden with a tax on their groceries should be the last way to tackle the city's budget problems."

In July, the US Department of Agriculture added its voice to the debate, saying that a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks could make a difference to obesity rates.

Its study, drawing on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, found that increasing the price of sugary sodas by 20 percent could cause an average reduction of 37 calories per day, equivalent to 3.8 pounds of body weight over a year for adults, and an average of 43 calories per day, or 4.5 pounds over a year, for children.