SAN DIEGO, CA – May 4, 2015 – (HISPANICIZE WIRE) – The Assembly Health Committee has the opportunity on May 12, to create a dedicated revenue source for California families to live healthier lives and to help reverse alarming health epidemics of diabetes and heart disease. A 2-cent-per-ounce health impact excise fee on sugary drinks is expected to generate an estimated $3 billion dollars a year. These funds will be used to create the “Children’s and Family Health Promotion Program” to prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, heart and dental disease. This Op-Ed, authored by Eunice Sanchez-Mata, MD, of the American Heart Association, represents the viewpoint of the AHA and a coalition of leading health organizations that support this excise fee.

Imagine this: a teen walks into a convenience store and grabs a 44 oz. Super Big Gulp filled with soda. When the teen finishes that drink, he/she will have consumed the equivalent of approximately 35 teaspoons of sugar. That is nearly four-times the daily limit for sugar set by the American Heart Association for a grown man, and nearly six- times the level for a woman. If they do this on a regular basis – and unfortunately there are thousands of teens who do – their future will very likely include diabetes, tooth decay, obesity and heart disease.

Sadly, the consumption of sugary drinks continues to rise and as a result, health risks associated with drinking these beverages – such as diabetes and obesity – are increasing at an alarming rate nationwide and here in California. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of American teens with diabetes has increased from nine percent to 25 percent[i], while nearly 40 percent of our children are now overweight or obese. [ii]

Obesity is also an issue in Mexico. With nearly 33 percent of Mexico’s population obese, the country has the dubious distinction of being the most obese country in the world. The Mexican government, alarmed by the rising costs of treating ailments associated with obesity, took the unprecedented action in January 2014 of approving a ground-breaking tax on sugary beverages. Less than one year after the passage of the tax, the majority of Mexicans who participated in a survey by public health advocates said they were drinking less sugary drinks, and they also connected drinking soda to health problems.

Berkeley also approved a policy on soda to curb consumption, making Berkeley the first city in the nation to increase the price of sugary drinks. To protect the health of our children, families and future generations, it is time for California lawmakers to follow Mexico and Berkeley’s lead and increase the price of sugary drinks.

The American Heart Association — and a coalition of leading health organizations – supports a 2-cent-per-ounce fee on sugar-sweetened beverages within California. On May 5, state legislators will have the opportunity to further advance California’s role as a public health leader by approving legislation that will increase the price of sugar-sweetened beverages. Money raised by this fee will promote healthy living in a variety of ways, including providing access to clean water at some schools that do not currently do so, by educating consumers in underserved communities about healthier options for youth in the community and school environment, and by providing increased access to dental care to combat the impact of too much sugary drink consumption.

[i] May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008.Pediatrics 2012:129(6):1035-1041.

[ii] Levi, Jeffrey and Segal, Laura M. and St. Laurent, Rebecca and Lang, Albert and Rayburn, Jack (2012) F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012. Project Report. Trust for America’s Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J.