Advocates pushing hard for sugary beverage tax

(WTNH) – The legislative committee that writes the state’s tax codes is expected to move on several tax proposals next week, and advocates for the sugary beverage tax are pushing extra hard.

The American Heart Association estimates that, on average, kids drink more than 30 gallons of sugary drinks a year. These are sugary drinks that are contributing to an epidemic of obesity and are causing other serious health problems.

Dr. Sandra Carbonari, the Medical Director for the Connecticut American Academy of Pediatrics, said, "There’s also an increased risk of dental decay, heart disease , high blood pressure , diabetes , fatty liver disease, and overall mortality."

A 1.5 cent tax per ounce on sugary drinks was one of the first taxes proposed by Governor Lamont . He said it’s not for the money, but to discourage people, and especially their kids, from drinking sugary beverages. The proposed tax on a 20 ounce drink would be 30 cents.

Advocates for the sugar tax say that Connecticut’s very high taxes on tobacco products has helped to greatly reduce the number of people that smoke.

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"That’s one reason why we are emphasizing a tax at this time, because we know it’s an effective way to change behaviors," said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D- Westport ), the co-chair of the legislature’s Public Health Committee.

A coalition of groups called the "Keep Connecticut Affordable Coalition" that opposes the sugar tax says it would impose an unfair burden on working families and that the beverage industry is already offering more and more drinks with less or no sugar in smaller sizes.

And the Republican leader in the House, Rep. Themis Klarides (R- Derby ), said the Governor’s taxing proposals are inconsistent because his expansion of the Sales Tax will affect items considered good for health and public safety.

She added, "You have an increase tax on sugary drinks and, on the other hand, you are raising taxes on Little League registration and car seats."

The Connecticut Department of Public Health said that about a third of kids in grades K through 3 and about a quarter of the kids in high school are not at a healthy weight.

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