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Opposition Grows to New York Soda Tax

Some characterize 'obesity tax' as a 'money grab'

By Jess Halliday

In his state budget, presented in December, New York Gov. David Paterson proposed an 18 percent sales tax on sugared beverages such as soda, citing research that has drawn a link between such products and an increased risk of childhood obesity. Taxation at the level he proposes would, in his calculations, reduce consumption by 5 percent.

But the proposal, which Paterson pushed again last week in his State of the State message, has been dubbed “sweeping” and “regressive” by the American Beverage Association, which views it as an attack on ordinary, hardworking Americans. Now it seems ordinary New Yorkers are increasing their opposition to the idea. A Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll found voters 64 to 32 percent against last week. The same poll on December 24 came out 60 to 37 percent opposed. And not only was the opposition voiced from consumers who prefer non-diet soft drinks: even those who stated a preference for the non-diet variety came out 62 to 35 percent against.

ABA condemns ‘money grab’

Susan Neely, president and CEO of the trade association said: “The proposed sales tax on beverages to fight obesity is simply a façade for raising taxes. It's a pure money grab from hardworking families who have no more money left to give.

Singling out one particular product for taxation won't even make a dent in a problem as complex as obesity.” She said that serious strategies to address obesity should involve the consumption of all foods and beverages, and increasing levels of physical activity. There are also concerns that a tax on beverages in New York will drive shoppers over state borders to buy their groceries elsewhere.

Natural juice opposition

Meanwhile Fizzy Lizzy, a manufacturer of natural sparkling soft drinks, believes the proposals are too wide-sweeping, ignoring the nutritional content of the products. Founder and COO Liz Morrill believes that natural soft drinks that contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients should be exempt. Using her own tangerine flavored branded beverage as an example, Morril said that the proposals would put no charge on 100 per cent juices, yet levy tax on Fizzy Lizzy drinks that she claims contains 100 calories and 24 grams of sugar in a 12 ounce serving.

“Even more perplexing is the fact that diet sodas get a pass but all non-diet carbonated beverages, regardless of calorie and nutritional content, are heavily taxed,”she said. “Oddly, almost all non-carbonated beverages without regard to nutritional profile get a pass.” As part of the protest, Morril believes that if an ‘obesity tax’ is to be passed it should avoid mindlessly demonizing’ carbonated beverages and consider instead calories and sugars on a per ounce-basis.



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