Beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup would be slapped with a new federal tax if three House Democrats have their way.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) proposed the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act, or the SWEET Act, on Wednesday. Her bill would impose a one-cent tax for every teaspoon of caloric sweetener used in a drink.
DeLauro said the tax is needed because American adults and children are growing too fat. The tax would not only create a disincentive to buy drinks sweetened by sugar raising their price, but it would also use the tax revenue to fund programs aimed at helping people deal with diabetes and other health problems related to high sugar intake.
“People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy,” DeLauro said. “But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs.”
“There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay,” she said.
DeLauro’s office said the bill would “fund initiatives designed to reduce the human and economic costs of obesity, diabetes, dental programs and other health conditions” that come from consuming sugar-sweetened drinks. Her office said that would include prevention and treatment programs, research and nutrition education.
DeLauro says disease related to sugar-enhanced drinks have led to health problems that cost $190 billion to treat each year, much of which is paid for by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are cosponsors of the bill.
Also Wednesday, DeLauro called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recommend how much sugar people should eat each day, and require food manufacturers to reveal what percentage of that daily value is included in the food they produce.
The FDA has never created a daily value for sugar, which some have said is the result of pressure from the U.S. sugar industry. But DeLauro said a daily value guideline would help people make healthier food choices.