The Vermont Cynic

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Potential tax on sweetened drinks in Vt.

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Alcohol, cigarettes and soda may all be entering the same health category, and soon there could be a tax to prove it.

The Vermont Beverage Tax proposal is a 2 cent per ounce state-wide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages including soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and more.

“UVM already banned bottled water, now the drinks we can purchase are going to be taxed, that’s bullshit,” senior Nick Usen said.

Vermont rejected similar beverage tax proposals in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

There is already a petition with over 7,000 names fighting the 2015 proposal, according to the Stop the Vermont Beverage Tax website.

“Vermonters don’t need another tax to know what is best for our families,” according to the website.

A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar, equaling about 9 teaspoons of sugar.

This is more than the daily recommended serving of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women, according to livestrong.com.

The “empty calories” gained from these beverages are the biggest source of added sugars in Americans diets, according to healthiervt.org.

“We have an obesity epidemic in our country and we need every tool in the toolbox in order to bend the curve in the increase in prevalence of obesity,” said Dr. Rachel Johnson, nutrition professor at UVM.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with a higher risk of obesity, as well as an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and obesity-related cancers, Johnson said.

“I think people are going to be really upset,” senior Olivia Hart said.

“I feel like the public doesn’t really know much about nutrition and health in general and they don’t realize that the amount of sugar in the soda they consume is really unhealthy,” she said.

But Johnson said the education will require funding.

“A sugar-sweetened beverage tax could provide funding to do public education campaigns around reducing intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages,” she said.

Public policy is one of the most powerful mechanisms of change because it has the ability to reform society to “make the healthy choice the easy choice,” according to Harvard School of public health’s website.

“A tax on sodas, juice drinks, sports drinks, teas and other beverages is not the answer, education is,” according to the Stop the Vermont Beverage Tax website.

In addition to education campaigns, Johnson said part of the tax proposal is to use funds to help subsidize healthcare and subsidize the price of fruits and vegetables for low income families.

A beverage tax may also help offset the societal cost of treating the diseases that result from high intakes of sugary drinks, Johnson said.

Around 11 percent of calories that are consumed by youths in America come from sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the Rhode Island department of health website.

The consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks has accounted for close to one-fifth of the weight gained by the U.S. population from 1977-2007, according to the Alliance For a Healthier Vermont website.

A similar sugar-sweetened beverage tax was implemented in Mexico last year.

The tax was associated with a 10 percent decrease in consumption and about a 6 percent drop in drink sales, according to a Jan. 11 article in the International Business Times.

The nation’s first soda tax was enacted in Berkeley, California Nov. 4, 2014, according to Forbes magazine.

If the Vermont Beverage Tax is passed, Vermont will be the first state to enact a statewide soda tax, Johnson said.

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Potential tax on sweetened drinks in Vt.