Public Expresses Support for a Tax on Sugared Beverages when Given Facts: Commissioner Daines

ALBANY, NY (Feb.4, 2010) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said that the results of a Quinnipiac poll released today regarding support for a proposed tax on sugared beverages most likely would have been more positive had responders been given some basic facts about the proposal.

"In polling, it's all in how you ask the question," said Commissioner Daines. "Quinnipiac simply asked New Yorkers if they support or oppose an "obesity tax" or "fat tax" on non-diet sugary soft drinks. "Nowhere in the Governor's budget is that tax mentioned and no one wants to hear about a tax called that."

Dr. Daines noted that when Kiley & Company asked 600 likely voters between Jan. 17-20 if they would support a Sugared Soda Tax that would reduce childhood obesity and also would reduce the budget deficit, 58 percent said yes. When asked if they would support the tax "if it came down to a choice between reducing state funding for the Medicaid program or passing a new 18-percent tax on sodas and other soft drinks with sugar," 76 percent were in favor of the tax.

Dr. Daines said responders to the Quinnipiac poll likely would have expressed more support for the proposed tax had they been told that the tax revenue would be targeted to health care and public health programs. "If Quinnipiac had called the tax by its true name and asked: 'Would you support a Sugared Beverage Tax that will reduce obesity, provide funding for health care and public health, and reduce health care costs,' I think they would have gotten a very different response," Dr. Daines said.

Governor David A. Paterson's proposed 2010-11 budget includes a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sodas and other drinks containing large amounts of sugar. The proceeds from the tax will be targeted to health care and public health programs, preventing cuts that would be required without the tax revenue.

Sixty percent of adults and a third of children in the State are overweight or obese. Numerous studies have identified beverages containing large amounts of added sugar as the single strongest dietary link to obesity. Health care for conditions related to obesity cost nearly $8 billion dollars a year, with a majority of that cost paid for by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.