Alarmed by an obesity epidemic, two state lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a "health impact fee" of 2 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened sodas and other drinks sold in California.
The proposal by Democratic Assemblymen Richard Bloom of Santa Monica and Jim Wood of Healdsburg would add 24 cents to 12-ounce soft-drink cans, to be charged at the distributor level.
The more than $2 billion expected to be raised each year under the tax would be given to counties, cities, community-based organizations and licensed clinics to create and maintain obesity and diabetes prevention programs. The money would also go toward providing safe drinking water and creating oral health programs.
"We hope to create a fund that would be used to improve health outcomes, particularly for children afflicted with obesity and diabetes," Bloom said Tuesday. "Right now there's very little funding available to address the epidemic of obesity."
The World Health Organization recently proposed methods for addressing the growing medical problems targeted by the bill. The measure, AB 2782, is backed by groups including the California Black Health Network, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, the California Primary Care Association and the California Dental Association.
Health experts also believe soda taxes reduce consumption, particularly by young people who are unable to afford the additional expense.
As with similar proposals in the past, Bloom's bill is expected to face strong opposition from Californians for Food and Beverage Choice, the political arm of the California Beverage Association (CalBev).
The group, which comprises beverage makers, distributors and retailers, worked to kill a 1-cent-per-ounce statewide soda tax proposal in the Legislature in 2014. Another bill stalled last year, but a city soda tax won voter approval in Berkeley.
"The last thing that hard-working Californians need is another tax, which will only make it even more difficult to make ends meet in one of the most expensive states in the nation," said Bob Achermann, executive director of CalBev.
The beverage industry warned last year that a similar California bill was discriminatory.
"Increased prices on so many common grocery items will impact those who can afford it least: middle- and lower-income California residents," the group wrote to legislators. "Because they spend a large percentage of their income on grocery items, they will be hit hardest by a beverage tax."
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, as are about 12.5 million children and adolescents.