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Soda taxes discourage unhealthful choices and pay for nutrition programs. What's not to like?

Soda taxes discourage unhealthful choices and pay for nutrition programs. What's not to like?
A woman sips from a 64-ounce Double Gulp outside a 7-Eleven store in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As your March 4 editorial notes, sugary drinks sales have dropped dramatically while water sales have risen in Berkeley since a voter-approved, penny-per-ounce tax took effect.

Soda taxes work, and there’s another side to the coin. In Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle, revenue from sugary drinks taxes is being used to pay for nutrition and physical activity programs such as water bottle refilling stations, access to fresh fruits and vegetables for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients and more.

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The pennies are adding up to help prevent the diseases that cause so much suffering and premature death. Just imagine the good a statewide sugary drinks tax could do.

John Harold, M.D., Los Angeles

The writer, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is board president of the American Heart Assn. of Los Angeles.

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To the editor: We must wage a war not only on sugared drinks, but also on the salty fast-food calories that rule too many of our lives.

We all have brain receptors for sugar, salt and fat that are working overtime with the obesity epidemic. Sweetened drinks and salty, fried and spicy foods all promote thirst and overindulgence.

Taxing away this epidemic is the reflex our elected officials are hooked on. Taxing an addiction is also unfair to lower-income people and is doomed to failure.

Before potable water became available, drinks were limited to alcoholic beverages, teas and coffee, and we had a slow food world. Confirmed alcoholics and hopeless smokers may not respond to a call for abstinence and die early. Prohibition was a pitiable failure.

The same rings true for soda. We must slow down our pace and our intake and take personal responsibility or die an earlier death.

Jerome P. Helman, M.D., Venice

The writer is a gastroenterologist specializing in nutrition and prevention.

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To the editor: It’s true that soft drinks are not as toxic as cigarettes. But that’s not to say they’re harmless.

Sodas and other sugary drinks are the biggest source of empty calories in the American diet and are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds obesity-related health conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes are some of the leading causes of preventable death.

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Berkeley’s soda tax has led to a steep drop in consumption, as has a similar tax in Mexico. I see no reason why we shouldn’t adopt that kind of excise tax statewide.

Kenny Goldberg, Valley Center, Calif.

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