Statement by State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines on the Proposed Sugared Beverage Tax

ALBANY, NY (Feb. 5, 2010) –"The fear that people will lose jobs as a result of a sugared beverage tax is unfounded. All of the soda companies and bottling companies, in addition to bottling sugared beverages, are producing many zero calorie and low calorie beverages. If consumption of sugared beverages decreases, as we hope it will as a result of this tax, these companies can compensate by increasing the production of their zero and low calorie products. People will modestly reduce their consumption of sugared beverages and will replace these with the zero calorie and low calorie products already being produced and bottled by these same companies."

"Coca Cola sells at least 23 beverages that are zero or low calorie beverages, PepsiCo sells at least 47 of these beverages, and Dr. Pepper-Snapple sells at least 30 zero or low calorie beverages. The goal of the tax is to get more New Yorkers to switch to healthier alternatives to sugared beverages, such as water, low fat milk, and diet sodas.

"We're asking the beverage companies to be our partners in protecting the public's health, and this fits right in with the missions and values these companies express on their websites. The Coca-Cola Company's website, for example, says their mission is to "refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create value and make a difference."

"Well, here's an important way they can do all of those things – join the fight against obesity. Obesity impairs health and well-being by causing chronic and debilitating conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

"A large body of research has identified beverages containing large amounts of added sugar as the single strongest dietary link to obesity. Drinking sugared soda isn't a bad thing. Moderation is the key. A single 12-oz can of non-diet sugared soda on average has 10 teaspoons of sugar and about 150 calories. Just one can a day represents 8 percent of the total recommended daily calorie intake for an average 12-year-old girl who engages in moderate activity (based on total 1,800 calorie intake).

"Per person consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages for American adults now averages 46 gallons a year – the equivalent of 40 pounds of sugar. It's virtually impossible for someone to exercise enough to burn off all those calories, which otherwise get stored as body fat.

"With 60 percent of adults and one-third of children in New York State now obese or overweight, we can't continue the status quo. We need to take action to stop and reverse the obesity epidemic. Our experience with cigarette taxes demonstrates clearly that price increases encourage a reduction in consumption.

Another advantage of the sugared beverage tax is that it will help support programs that will help prevent obesity. The revenue produced by the tax will be targeted to health care services and public health programs, avoiding further cuts to these programs that will occur without this tax revenue.

"Those who argue that we don't need another tax should let people decide if they want to pay taxes that support health care programs and public health initiatives that will help prevent obesity, as this tax will do, or if they want to continuing paying a large chunk of their taxes to pay for health care to treat the health problems caused by overweight and obesity. New Yorkers are already paying $8 billion a year for health care for obesity-related conditions through the Medicaid and Medicare programs as well as through their health insurance premiums. The portion of state and federal taxes that currently goes to pay for treatment of obesity-related diseases averages $771 per New York household per year.

"With the sugared beverage tax we have an opportunity to achieve a triple play: improved health for New Yorkers, reduced health care costs, and much needed revenue for health care."