Legislators Introduce Sugary Beverage Tax to Combat Obesity and Diabetes Epidemic

For immediate release:

(Sacramento) – Today, three California legislators introduced legislation that would establish a health impact fee on sugar sweetened beverages in an effort to fund obesity, diabetes prevention and dental programs. The measure, AB 2782, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), and coauthored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), and sponsored by numerous leading health advocacy organizations throughout the state, would generate an estimated $2.3 billion a year to prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, heart and dental disease that is ravaging the Golden State and the rest of the country.

“Science overwhelmingly demonstrates that the overconsumption of soda and other sugar laden beverages has led to an epidemic of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity throughout our country and here in California,” said Bloom. “Disease that is directly attributed to the overconsumption of sugary beverages costs us billions and brings with it untold misery that disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities and people of color. Now is the time to take action and begin to reverse the negative and preventable health impacts caused by these products.”

“Nationally, obesity rates have doubled in the last 30 years, unleashing untold damage on the health of our nation in the form of heart disease, kidney disease and tooth decay,” said Chiu. “Quietly and with little fanfare, diabetes rates have skyrocketed, to the point where 2.4 million Californians are now afflicted, including 1 in 2 Latino and African American kids. We must do more to confront these daunting challenges to our collective health.”

“The number of children being diagnosed today with adult-onset-diabetes is frightening particularly when you consider that the disease was virtually non-existent among children three decades ago,” said Wood. “Despite this alarming trend and the decades-long pleas from healthcare practitioners, California has made little to no financial investment to counter the problem. As the eight largest economy in the world, I find this unacceptable.”

Soda and other sugar sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet, and are linked to increased risk of diabetes and other diseases, like heart and liver disease, obesity, and tooth decay. Studies have shown that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in California has jumped 50 percent between 2001 and 2012. Unless the trend is reversed, one in three of our children born after 2000 – and half of Latino and African American children – will go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes in their lifetimes.

Moreover, the California obesity rate has skyrocketed from nine percent in 1984 to over 25 percent today and is projected to increase to 47 percent by 2030. Diabetes alone adds an extra 1.6 billion dollars every year to state hospitalization costs – money which would be better invested in preventive health and education.

Scientific studies show that the dramatic increase in diabetes, and the equally significant increase in California’s obesity rate, is likely due to the consumption of nearly 300 more calories per day than 30 years ago with up to 43% of that caloric increase coming from the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Despite the alarming statistics, there are no state funds reserved for diabetes prevention. While the California Department of Public Health (DPH) administers some diabetes prevention programs, those prevention efforts are funded through grants from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the number of Californians with diabetes has increased significantly over the past decade, DPH received 22% less federal funding for diabetes prevention in fiscal year 2013-14. At a funding level of 3 cents per capita, California has the lowest per capita funding for diabetes prevention in the nation.

AB 2782 confronts these negative health impacts head on by creating a revenue source to fund programs that educate communities on the dangers of over consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and provide tools and resources for healthy alternatives. The fund will be used to award grants to counties, cities, nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, and licensed clinics that seek to invest in childhood obesity and diabetes prevention activities, and oral health programs.

The bill is sponsored by a number of statewide healthcare advocacy groups including the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership, California Black Health Network, California Dental Association, California Primary Care Association, California Rural Indian Health Board, California School-Based Health Alliance, Latino Coalition for a Health California, Public Health Institute, and Roots of Change.

The bill is expected to be heard in its first policy committee in the Assembly sometime next month.

Below are links to audio of Assemblymembers Bloom and Wood:

Opening remarks from Assemblymember Bloom at today's AB 2782 news conference. (8:19)

Assemblymember Bloom says diabetes is reaching epidemic levels in California and the U.S. (:15)

Assemblymember Bloom says the soda industry is targeting children of color. (:22)

Assemblymember Bloom says AB 2782 is a the correct response to the onslaught of sugary drinks that is hurting all Californians. (:11)

Remarks from Assemblymember Jim Wood at today's AB 2782 news conference. (2:43)