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Letter: Beverage taxes don’t make us healthier

Activists claim that taxes on beverages will make people healthier when there is no evidence that these taxes will have any real or measurable impact on obesity. One needs to look no further than Arkansas and West Virginia to see that soda taxes do not improve health. These states both have longstanding soda taxes, yet consistently rank in the top 10 most obese states.

Health may be the stated desire but the funding would be used to support new programs and do nothing to address the budget challenges facing the state. While families in our state have had to learn to tighten their belt and make do, some continue to ask for more and more for their own projects. This results in more burden on grocery bills and more costs on small businesses.

These taxes have real consequences. Not only do they cost jobs, but it harms small business people who depend on beverage sales for their livelihoods and it raises the bills on families dealing with a struggling economy.

We are a part of every community in Illinois and we take seriously the need to do our part to address public health concerns like obesity. If we want to tackle obesity, it starts with education and collaboration, not burdensome taxes, laws and regulations that distract from real solutions.

The Chicago Sun-Times editorial from Aug. 18 stated…” a better way to combat the poor dietary habits that are to blame for alarmingly high rates of obesity and diabetes is public education, as First Lady Michelle Obama has been showing us for years” and we couldn’t agree more.

America’s beverages companies have maintained their longstanding commitment to being a part of the solution to reducing obesity in America, including offering a wide range of beverage choices, a variety of package sizes and clear calorie labels. Recently, the American Beverage Association launched a partnership with the Clinton Global Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier America called the Balanced Calories Initiative.

This effort is one of the largest industry led campaigns to ever address the issue of obesity in the United States. The core message of the campaign focuses on the common goal of reducing beverage calories in the American diet and helping consumers understand the heath impacts of what they eat, drink and do. There are significant efforts underway to provide consumers with more choices, smaller portions and fewer calories — all while being informed about what they are consuming.

Partnerships like the one with the Clinton Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation demonstrate the willingness of our members to play their part in providing information to consumers so they can make informed decisions regarding what goes into their grocery carts.

Jim Soreng, executive director,

Illinois Beverage Association

 

Published in The Chicago Sun-Times, March 2, 2016

 

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