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Soda Tax Idea Coming Back In Spring Session

flickr/ Jannes Pockele

Americans' love affair with sweets is well known.  It also contributes to health problems like obesity, diabetes and even heart disease.  And where do most people get sugar in their diet?  From sweetened beverages, such as soda.  

That's led some health advocates to push for ways to reduce consumption.  In Illinois, a plan for a penny per ounce tax on the drinks came up last year.  However, it got a cool reception from lawmakers.  


Elissa Bassler is CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute and a spokesperson for the Illinois Alliance To Prevent Obesity.  She says the proposal will be re-introduced in the upcoming spring legislative session.

"I think we are trying to educate legislators," she said. "When you have a big new idea that's groundbreaking, in a way, it takes some time."

An estimated $600 million could be brought in each year.  Half would go toward helping pay off state health care costs while the rest could be used for a variety of school and community health programs.

'We need access to better and healthier school lunches for kids. We need fresh fruits and vegetables that are affordable to people in communities. We need to be sure there are safe places where people can be active and kids can play," she said.  Some of the funding could go be used for those causes.

The beverage industry has argued the tax would harm low income consumers and possibly result in job loss. 

Berkeley, California was the first city to approve a similar tax.  That occurred last month.  No state has passed such a law.

Bassler said even though there are a lot of foods and products that are considered unhealthy, going after soda and other sugared beverages makes sense.

"That's where the science is," Bassler remarked.  "Finding a product that bears a lot of the weight for this, sugary drinks are it."

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