Preventing taxes on sugary beverages is an attack on health - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Preventing taxes on sugary beverages is an attack on health

April 8th, 2018 development
Preventing taxes on sugary beverages is an attack on health

By Adrienne Z. Udarbe, Guest Writer

House Bill 2484, which prevents taxes on sugary beverages, was quickly pushed through our state Legislature by special-interest groups with deep pockets – namely, in this case, the American Beverage Association. It also should come as no surprise that many of the op-eds written in support of this bill were penned by lobbyists from Washington, D.C, not those with expertise in public health. This bill was just the latest example of the Legislature doing the bidding of industry before constituents and preemptively pushing back on local control in a reactive versus proactive manner.

The American Beverage Association and its associates have spent millions upon millions of dollars lobbying against sugary beverage taxes across the nation. In fact, according to a November 2017 report by the watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest, the soda industry spent $48.9 million on recent soda tax opposition campaigns. The power of money in our government, over the greater good of public health and retention of local control, can be clearly seen with bills such as HB2484. When citizen-led initiatives do pass, big corporate interests file lawsuits to prevent the taxes from going into effect. The move to ban local control of policies, especially nutrition-related policy, is similar to the playbook used by the tobacco industry in years past.

A poll conducted by OH Predictive Insights found that 59 percent of Arizonans would pay a two-cent-per-ounce tax on soda if the revenue went directly to schools. The poll was conducted in response to Arizona leaders debating if and when to ask voters to expand Proposition 301, the state’s existing tax that helps fund education.

Numerous studies show positive impacts to both health and funding for health and education related initiatives in the cities and countries that implement them. Also, soda taxes are popular among the general public (when not being spun by big corporate interests and lobbyists) as they have the ability to fund things such as education, nutrition initiatives and other programs to address prevention of chronic health issues – especially in children.

Though the argument made by the soda industry and their lobbyists often cites such taxes being an “attack on the poor,” the irony, is that this preemptive ban now forces all food taxes to be applied to all foods effectively, thus increasing overall food spending as a whole, to the detriment of those on fixed income or limited food budgets. We will also point out the important fact that soda has NO nutritional value, with sugar being the sole source of calorie content. It’s also important to note the sweetened beverage industry utilizes predatory marketing practices, especially geared toward lower income families and people of color, which creates a large health equity problem. Us as taxpayers ultimately pay for this, as health issues, including childhood diabetes and other chronic health conditions continue to climb.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but these taxes can indeed be a good start to leveling the playing field. Our public servants should recognize the importance of honoring both the choice and voice of our communities (as can be indicated by the poll) – especially our rural communities who are extremely underfunded. The health of Arizona and our future depend upon it.

– Adrienne Z. Udarbe is the executive director of Pinnacle Prevention, a nonprofit based in Chandler.