A bill that would tax sugary sodas and energy drinks is currently making its way through the California State Senate. If passed into law, SB-622 will add a one-cent tax per ounce to any "bottled sweetened beverage" with more than 25 calories and deposit the proceeds in a new Children's Health Promotion Fund.
State senator Bill Monning (D-Monterey), the bill's chief sponsor, said by taxing soda the state, "will be able to implement programs that will assist in preventing disease among children and begin to address a public health crisis whose rising health costs affect all Californians."
Speaking of rising costs, your basic $0.99 20-ounce Mountain Dew will run you about $1.19 under the new bill, although it is currently unclear how the tax will be implemented. Judging by the text of the bill it will be charged to retail outlets buying drinks and soda syrup in bulk and then passed along to consumers. Under the legislature's guidelines, those tiny cans of sugar free Red Bull and the three Diet Cokes you drink a day will be spared the price hike, but anything else from watered-down fruit juices to Vitamin Water and sports drinks will come with a donation to help fight childhood obesity in California.
The newly created Children's Health Promotion Fund will distribute those tax dollars to state and community-level obesity prevention programs, as well as new public health programs in California elementary and secondary schools.
Consumer advocacy groups are already lashing out against the idea of a per-ounce nanny state tax. "Taxes shouldn’t be a tool for social engineering or an instrument to penalize Californians for doing nothing wrong," a senior analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom told the L.A. Times last month. "Residents of California don’t need a PhD in nutrition to tell them that eating or drinking too much of anything is unhealthy; it only takes a little common sense and personal responsibility."
According to recent Field Polls, however, 68 percent of Californians are OK with the idea as long as the funds go towards keeping kids in shape. According to the CDC, nearly a quarter of adult Californians and 17 percent of the children in the state are overweight or obese.