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State Senator Seeks Soda Tax

Chicago Democrat seeks penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks in sealed containers

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State Senator Seeks Soda Tax

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Soda being poured into glass with ice

As part of a plan to promote healthier living in Illinois, a state senator from Chicago has proposed a penny per ounce tax on soft drinks sold in sealed containers.

State Senator Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, has proposed the plan, which she says the move will raise revenue for a range of health services and education initiatives.

"Numerous studies have linked excessive consumption of sugary soft drinks to obesity," Hunter said in an email. "We as a state need to do a better job of educating the public and children in particular about this issue and the health risks."

Opposition groups are already lining up against the proposal, including Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, an alliance of manufacturers, retailers and union workers who say the tax would harm the economy and kill jobs in Illinois.

"You reduce consumption, and you reduce employment," said Brian Rainville, a spokesman for Teamsters Joint Council 25 in Chicago and northwest Indiana. "If there's less being made and distributed, there's fewer people doing those jobs.

Hunter’s proposal isn't the first time the idea of a soda tax has been floated around these parts. In 2012, Alderman George Cardenas (12th) proposed a penny per ounce tax on soda and energy drinks sold within the city limits.

In 2011 the Cook County Department of Public Health issued a report recommending a tax of 2 cents per ounce on all sugar-sweetened beverages.

Outside of Illinois, a 2 cents-per-ounce tax was introduced in San Francisco in February, after a soda tax failed at the ballot in two other California cities last November.

Recently, Mexico enacted a 10 percent-per-liter tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in an effort to fight obesity. Mexico is currently the country with the biggest weight problem in the world, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, overtaking the United States.

However, there’s some doubt over whether soda taxes actually achieve their desired goal of raising positive health outcomes.

A 2010 study published in the Archived of Internal Medicine journal estimated that even high levels of taxation only produce an annual average weight loss of about 1.3 pounds per person.

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