Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. introduced a bill this week to tax certain beverages, claiming that the tax will help clear up the state’s budget and slim down its residents. When we hear about legislation that would add a discriminatory tax on beverages, we want to be sure to let our readers know why it’s not right to single out our products.
First of all, people can make their own decisions on what’s best for their families. They don’t want government telling them what to eat or drink by taxing common grocery items like beverages. Hard-working families are holding their own in this challenging economy, but they can’t afford higher prices at the grocery store. A new, discriminatory tax on certain beverages would squeeze low- and middle-class family budgets and hurt the most those who can least afford it.
And we know that taxes don’t make people healthy. We’ve blogged before to let our readers know that diet and exercise do that. Obesity is a serious and complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions. It cannot be solved by simplistic approaches that single out particular foods or beverages. Education about diet and exercise is the most effective way to help people lead a healthy, balanced and active lifestyle.
As we’ve mentioned before, singling out one item in the grocery cart for an additional tax is discriminatory and regressive – and it makes no sense. In fact, sugar-sweetened beverages are just a small part of the American diet—only 7 percent. That means that 93 percent of the average American’s calories come from other sources.
The beverage industry is working to be part of the solution to obesity by taking bold actions. We have cut the number of overall beverage calories produced for the marketplace by 21 percent from 1998 to 2008, due in part to industry’s innovation in bringing more zero-calorie, low-calorie and reduced-portion choices to market.
With our national School Beverage Guidelines, we removed-full-calorie soft drinks from all schools and replaced them with more lower-calorie, smaller-portion options. In fact, there has been an 88 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools since 2004. And we are adding new labels to the front of every can, bottle and pack we produce, and displaying the total calories per container on beverages 20 ounces or smaller. By providing calorie information at consumers’ fingertips at every point of purchase, we’re making it easier for Texans, and all consumers, to make informed choices so they can make the selection that is right for them.
Reducing the deficit in Texas is important, but reaching into Texans' grocery carts and placing the burden on the backs of hard-working families is not the right way to handle it.