SPRINGFIELD — Even with the backing of several major medical groups, supporters of a proposed soft drink tax say their legislation faces a serious uphill battle.

Their plan, introduced this week, would add a penny-per-ounce excise tax on any sugar-sweetened beverages sold in sealed containers, and would use the estimated $600 million in additional revenue to fund health services, education and an expansion of Medicaid's prevention services and dental care.

One of the measure's sponsors, state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, said the proposal will be "very difficult to pass" due to resistance from consumers and the state's business community.

"People will pay a little more," she said. "It's true. But that's just to offset the burden of those beverages in terms of health and health care costs here in Illinois."

American Heart Association spokesman Mark Peysakhovich said the legislation is just the first step in what likely will be a very lengthy fight.

"We're not kidding ourselves," he said. "This is the first year of a significant campaign. I compare this quite a bit to our work on tobacco taxes. The industry has the dream team.

"It's going to take time to get the message across, but we feel that the public will finally support us. Anybody playing defense on this issue has already lost."

The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity reports that one in three children in Illinois is obese, and nearly two in three adults are overweight.

The group predicts that in one year, the tax would reduce obesity among children by 9.3 percent, and obesity among adults by 5.2 percent. It estimates that these changes would come with more than $150 million in savings on obesity-related health care costs.

"We know our communities are suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer," state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Chicago, said. "It's critically important to address these health concerns and generate revenue to invest in solutions to these complex problems ... We can't afford not to pass this bill."

Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association — part of the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes — said the economic cost of the tax would be too high.

He argued it would kill jobs for farmers, corn processors, packagers and delivery drivers in the state, due to reduced soda consumption.

But new research from the University of Illinois at Chicago says that soda taxes actually increase private- and public-sector employment.

The study shows that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would only shift consumer demand toward non-sugar-sweetened products, rather than eliminating it altogether.

Additionally, the report says the increased tax revenue allows governments to spend more, creating new job opportunities in the public sector.

The researchers estimate that a 20 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would create 4,509 new jobs in Illinois.

Denzler called the study "completely flawed," and said that consumers would simply go across state lines to get soda.

"You already have lower rates for cigarettes and gasoline in Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin," he said. "If you increase the price of a case of soda by nearly $3, you're going to have Illinois consumers going across state lines to buy the product."

Hunter argued that soda's health impact on the poor is more important than the possibility of higher soda prices in the state.

"I'll tell you what hurts poor people," she said. "The extra marketing that these drinks use in poor and minority communities — that's what hurts us. The extra deaths from heart disease in poor communities, the lack of safe places to exercise and eat in poor communities, the cuts in Medicaid."

The legislation is House Bill 5690 and Senate Bill 3524.

More from pantagraph.com

(8) comments

reason2b
reason2b

Illinois needs money. Nobody needs soda. It is costing us all money in costs to society.
Diet soda would be exempt, so people could adapt.
Go for it.

Michelle23

LoL! Diet soda is worse than reg soda! Its gross, no way would I adapt. Anyway.... Don't tax my Pepsi ya'll!!!!!! Its my coffee in the am.

Joeswife

Their plan, introduced this week, would add a penny-per-ounce excise tax on any sugar-sweetened beverages sold in sealed containers, and would use the estimated $600 million in additional revenue to fund health services, education and an expansion of Medicaid's

prevention services and dental care


Hunter argued that soda's health impact on the poor is more important than the possibility of higher soda prices in the state.

You know what, I'm damned sick & tired of getting taxed to help the poor, when probably 90% of them could get a job instead of having more babies, tattoos, Iphones, & God knows what else. I am a 60 yr. old woman who works 6 days a week, & I get really tired of watching these young ppl on "Medicaid" do absolutely nothing! Maybe you should revamp medicaid so they don't have all these privileges, then you won't have to tax the working class on everything.

softball24-7

Plus add the additional 1% sales tax if the schools get there way!

Ted Kennedy's Drill Instructor
Ted Kennedy's Drill Instructor

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.

watchandlearn

Just more smoke and mirrors so they can steal more money from consumers.

As long as they can claim a rightous cause they believe that they can pick and choose any product they like to promote their new pocket picking agendas.

The only way to stop health related issues concerning soda, alcohol, tobacco, etc, would be a complete ban of each product.

Of course if all of these evil sin taxed products were banned then these jokers would be heartbroken at the loss of revenue, ( their real concern for these so called sin taxes )
And then they would just come up with new items to attack so they can continue to pillage the average citizens pocketbook.

Its about time we all woke up and start to remember our forfathers.

Maybe this time instead of dropping tea in the harbor we could toss in all the money hungry politicians instead.

wee willy

Then candy Bars, ice cream, cupcakes, pie even wedding cake. It won't stop, till we are all hooked up to their remote control.

Maureen ABA
Maureen ABA

As this article reports, the proposed soda tax faces an “uphill battle” when it comes to passage. In other regions of the country, similar efforts have failed to gain traction, and in fact have been soundly defeated. Why? Because the premise that soda taxes will help health is fundamentally flawed. No single food, beverage or ingredient is the culprit driving complex health conditions ranging from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer – and it’s overly simplistic and wholly misleading to suggest so. Many risk factors come into play with respect to each of these conditions, including genetics, for example.

What can help? Education can help change health behaviors, whereas regulation will not. To this point, we agree with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) which states that targeting specific nutrients or foods can cause consumer confusion and that the overall diet is the most important focus to healthy eating: http://bit.ly/1bHGlrP. AND goes on to say that incentives rather than restrictions are a more beneficial approach to promote healthy lifestyles. We couldn’t agree more that a well-rounded approach to health education is a far more effective means of helping people adopt more balanced, active lifestyles. - Maureen Beach, American Beverage Association

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.