* Backers of a proposed tax on sugared pop to fund health initiatives are busily lowering expectations…
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. […]
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 tax on the sugary drinks, including sports drinks, soda, fruit juices and some coffees, to name a few, is estimated to raise $600 million annually. Half of the money would go to Medicaid to reinstate dental care and other cuts. The other half would go to a wellness fund to promote community health and awareness. The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity said in a written statement that the tax targets sugar-sweetened drinks because strong evidence links them to obesity and other chronic illnesses.
* But opponents are focusing on the tax itself…
While sugary drinks are linked to obesity and other medical issues, some question whether a tax is the best way to get people to cut back on consumption. “The soft drink industry has done a good job at making consumers know calories — not that it wasn’t on there before, but by putting it on the front of the can and from minimizing the ounces in cans,” said Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. Triche said merchants are already working on ways to promote better choices by having healthy foods at the entrance of the stores to help consumers think of better choices as they arrive. “It is already happening without the government getting involved by taxing.” She said the organization wants consumers to spend money buying more produce and food, rather than on taxes.
The Taxpayers Federation of Illinois has not taken a stance on the bill, but President Carol Portman said, “If you want to fight obesity, taxing isn’t the way to do it.”