California residents support soda tax to fight obesity, health study shows

Thu Jun 5, 2014 10:38pm EDT
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By Jennifer Chaussee

(Reuters) - Fighting obesity by taxing sugary drinks and restricting junk food advertisements aimed at children has support from a wide majority of residents surveyed in a Southern California public health study released on Thursday.

    The findings from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health come as friction mounts between the beverage industry and health advocates over the best way to fight obesity and diabetes, tied by studies to over-consumption of soda, sweets and junk food.

“There have been a lot of arguments against this sort of policy," including claims it will cost the poor more to buy food, said Paul Simon, head of chronic disease prevention for the county and lead author of the study.

But Simon said nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by the county in a broad 2011 assessment of public attitudes toward health issues, said they supported a soda tax, and three-quarters favored limiting junk food advertising.

Public health advocates across the country have clamored for ways to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and junk food, but lawmakers and voters have generally opposed enacting taxes or other regulations.

Lawmakers in Illinois rejected a measure in late May that would have taxed soda purchases at one cent per ounce, and a tax proposed for California failed in the state Legislature last year.

On Wednesday, an attorney for New York City asked the state's top court to revive the city's ban on large sugary drinks, which was overturned by a lower court last year.

In California, a measure to require warning labels on sodas passed the state Senate last week.   Continued...

Soft drink cups sized (L-R) at 32 ounces and 64 ounces are displayed at a news conference at City Hall in New York, May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Burton