DeLauro seeks tax on soda, sugared drinks

Rose DeLauro, who represents Milford, has introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) Act to tackle the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes by discouraging excessive sugar in beverages. The SWEET Act would institute a tax of 1 cent per teaspoon of caloric sweetener, such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

“People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy. But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs,” DeLauro said. “There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay. We are at a crucial tipping point and the SWEET Act will help correct the path we are currently on.”

DeLauro said the revenue raised by the SWEET Act would be used to fund initiatives designed to reduce the human and economic costs of obesity, diabetes, dental problems and other health conditions related to sugar-sweetened beverages. This includes prevention and treatment programs, research and nutrition education. Such diseases are responsible for an estimated $190 billion in annual health care costs, over 20 percent of which are paid by American taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid, she said.

DeLauro said the bill is supported by several public health and consumer groups.

Also, DeLauro sent a letter to Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, supporting her decision to keep added sugars as a stand-alone line on the proposed revised Nutrition Facts panel.

Obesity and diabetes rates have skyrocketed since the late 1970s, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting more than one-third of American adults were obese in 2012. Scientific research overwhelmingly shows a link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and such diseases.