Texas Considers Soda Tax to Fight Childhood Obesity

The Legislature is debating a penny-per-ounce tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in retail stores.

March 09, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, Texas - The Texas Legislature has a bill that supporters say would help fight childhood obesity. Senate Bill 1004 adds a penny-per-tax on every sugar-sweetened drink sold in retail locations, such as grocery and convenience stores, the Jacksonville Daily Progress reports.

"The point of this bill is to get a conversation started," said Sen. Eddie Lucio, who sponsored the measure. "Not only would a bill like this raise revenue that could go to health care and education, it would help us save money in the long run by cutting expenses associated with health issues like obesity and diabetes."

The bill would bring in a projected $4 billion during the years 2012 and 2013. Excluded from the tax would be milk, rice and soy drinks, beverages containing more than 50 percent fruit or vegetable juice, and drinks sold in restaurants. If approved, the tax would go into effect Sept. 1.

"There??s no nutrition in soft drinks. It??s just sugar calories," said Judy Beck, director of the Cherokee County Health Department. "Generally, if a youngster is consuming more calories than they??re burning, they??re going to be overweight. So depending on how many sodas or sweet drinks they??re drinking, generally, that would be a good place to start to reduce, to cut out."

The revenue collected from the tax would be funneled into the state??s general fund. "There are solutions to the budget mess we find ourselves in which do not involve making drastic cuts to vital services. The Texas legislature should be exploring these solutions," Lucio said. "We've got to have alternatives other than cuts. This bill would help retain teachers and critical medical services."