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California May Institute a Tax on Soda: Survey Reveals Support for Idea

First Posted: Jun 07, 2014 05:05 PM EDT

Obesity has been on the rise in the United States and has caused the death of many, directly and indirectly. Though many in the country are obese, the majority is people of low-income who find the low cost of junk food and soda appealing. However, the state of California has taken steps to curb the dangers of obesity.

The state senate has passed a resolution that would require warning labels to be placed on sodas last week. According to Reuters, this may not be the last stop. A survey conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found wide support for the taxation of sugary drinks in the area.

Though a tax proposed last year did not make it past the state legislature, many in the southern California, as per the survey, support the idea of a tax on soda. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by the county said they supported a soda tax when a broad survey on health issues was made in 2011.

Three quarters of those interviewed supported limiting junk food advertising. However, Paul Simon, head of chronic disease prevention for the county and lead author of the study, said many people still oppose the idea of a tax, arguing that it will make food cost more for the poor, according to Reuters.

Similar legislation has failed in other states, including New York's infamous ban on large sugary drinks. Many soda companies and their lobbyists, as a result, have been able to dismiss the survey's findings. CalBev, an industry association, said that when it's put up to the voters the laws "always go down in defeat."

Yet, the issue of obesity continues to be a contentious topic in the country. Many academics and officials see higher taxes as the only way of deterring people from buying soda and junk food. In a study done published by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the authors argued that a calorie-based tax could be a means of deterring people from buying sugary drinks, according to NPR.

The tax for a 12-ounce can of Coke or Pepsi would have a 6-cent tax, according to their calculation of .04 cents per calorie. The study's author, Chen Zhen, from the Research Triangle Institute, and his colleagues looked into supermarket sales data to see patterns correlated with price fluctuations with consumer purchasing. They then modeled how different forms of taxing would affect decision-making, NPR reported. The National Institute of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded their research. 

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