Citing a public health crisis, California lawmakers on Wednesday proposed discouraging drinking sugary beverages through measures including a soda tax and warning labels.
As more than half of Californians have diabetes or prediabetes, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said prohibiting restaurants and places with self-service machines from selling soda in cups larger than 16 ounces will help.
“The soda industry is the new tobacco industry,” Chiu said. “This is an industry that has used marketing and sales tactics to victimize low-income communities, communities of color throughout our country.”
One of four California adults is now obese, a 40-percent increase over two decades, Chiu said. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is also connected to heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout.
Other proposed bills would ban stores from displaying sugary drinks at checkout areas and prohibit soda manufacturer discount coupons. Lawmakers said the bills also cover sweetened coffee and tea, plus sugary sports drinks.
“What’s next — criminalizing pizzas over 18 inches?” Assembly Republicans said in a statement.
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For the third year in a row, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, proposed a tax on sugary beverages that would fund programs to prevent and treat health conditions such as diabetes. He said details are still in development, but health groups are also circulating petitions to put a tax of 2 cents per ounce on the 2020 ballot.
The beverage industry said the tax would further burden lower-income communities, citing comments from the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst, and would have uncertain health benefits.
California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julian Canete pushed for better health education instead of a tax, adding soda makers have already discouraged over-consumption.
The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and others, said it has been offering smaller portion sizes with less or no sugar.
Although a federal court blocked a San Francisco city ordinance requiring health warnings on soda advertisements, another bill proposes requiring health warning labels for sugar-sweetened beverages. The court ruled the ordinance violates constitutionally-protected commercial speech.
The bill’s author, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said the warning label would be similar to those on cigarettes.
Contributing: The Associated Press