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National Restaurant Association - State legislators weigh beverage-tax proposals

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State legislators weigh beverage-tax proposals

Thirteen states considered proposals to tax soda in 2013, but so far no bills have been enacted.

Legislation remains pending in Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon. Legislation failed in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

Most proposals would have taxed sugar-sweetened beverages at one cent per ounce. Some would have taxed beverages by the gallon or removed the soft drink exemption from the state sales tax, essentially creating a soft drink tax.

The issue of sugar-sweetened beverages also took center stage in New York City, where the New York City Board of Health voted last year to ban sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces in restaurant and other foodservice venues. That ban was to go into effect in March, but has been held up by a National Restaurant Association (and allied groups) lawsuit.

The New York City ban brought heightened attention to the issue of sugar-sweetened beverages within policymaking circles, said Brendan Flanagan, the NRA’s vice president of state and local affairs.

In Vermont, the Chamber of Commerce helped defeat a proposed tax would have increased the price of sugar-sweetened soda, juice drinks, sports drinks and teas by as much as 20 percent.

 “We were able to stop the beverage tax by working with a coalition that included other associations, restaurants, retail outlets, and beverage wholesalers,” said Vicky Tebbetts, senior vice president, Vermont Chamber of Commerce.  She said the coalition supported the views of Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), who opposed broad-based taxes this session.

The NRA also opposes beverage bans and taxes.

“Obesity is a complex problem influenced by many factors, including diet, exercise and genetics,” said Joan McGlockton, vice president, industry affairs and food policy, NRA. “It’s not realistic to blame any single food or beverage product. The focus should be on education about a balanced diet and active lifestyle.”

Research published in Nutrition Journal last month shows that Americans on average obtain approximately 1 percent of their total calories from soda, energy and sports drinks purchased in quickservice restaurants.

View the 2013 beverage legislation map.

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