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Prevention Institute

Strategic Alliance Rapid Response: August 1, 2014

Proposed Soda Tax Getting Lots of Ink; You Can Join the Conversation

On Wednesday, Representative Rosa DeLauro, with colleagues Eleanor Holmes Norton and Jim Moran, introduced the “SWEET Act,” to create a national soda tax and devote the revenues to support health and prevention efforts. The bill recharges the national conversation on the role of industry in shaping health--and gives advocates an opening to air their arguments.

The American Beverage Association is already turning their lobbyists and consumer front groups loose to disparage the tax, calling it "an old idea that has gotten no traction in federal government, states and cities." In fact, the idea of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is gaining momentum across the country, including local soda tax proposals right here in California.

We know from decades of going up against Big Tobacco that policy change—such as taxes that reinvest revenue in prevention efforts—is a powerful way to support health.

With the national dialogue on sugar-sweetened beverages heating up, it’s time for advocates to join the conversation. In this alert, we've rounded up some of the national news stories and blogs on the SWEET Act, along with examples of strong messaging for you to use as you craft your comments and letters in support.

Here are some news stories awaiting your response:

Take action:
•    Comment on the online news stories and blogs featured in this alert – elected officials and other policymakers often read comments to gauge public opinion.
•    Write a blog, or an Op-Ed or letter to the editor of your local paper in support of policy efforts to limit the impact of junk-food marketing. Read our tips for how to get published.
•    Shape the dialogue on Twitter by tweeting at the hashtag #SWEETAct.

Here are some early responses in support of the SWEET Act. Don’t be shy--borrow strong framing when you see it!

The research affirms it: addressing sugary beverages makes sense. Public Health Institute’s Mary Pittman said: "The science is clear. Sweetened beverages are associated with costly diet-related chronic diseases. DeLauro’s graduated excise tax addresses the problem and supports the solution: by holding manufacturers accountable for creating products loaded with sugar and bereft of nutritional value; and by infusing the Prevention and Public Health Fund with needed resources to prevent chronic disease and promote healthier lives for everyone.”

Now is the time to fund vital community prevention efforts nationwide. Over at Forbes, Prevention Institute’s Rob Waters argues: “The bill also dedicates the revenue generated from the tax to the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support ‘programs and research designed to reduce the human and economic costs of... diet-related health conditions.’ Based on today’s consumption patterns, the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates it would raise about $10 billion a year that could fund health and education programs—like the enormously successful anti-smoking media campaigns that have helped slash the number of smokers in the U.S.”

Voluntary efforts are not going far enough. New York Times’ Mark Bittman underscores that aggressive marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages is something we can’t rely on industry to deal with voluntarily. “If there were an affordable and harmless sugar substitute that met with widespread public approval, the industry would happily use it, but barring that they’re going to sell all the sugar-sweetened beverages they can persuade consumers to buy, which is why we need soda taxes, and why they’re precisely the kinds of public health measures the federal government should be actively pursuing.”

More on making the case for sugar-sweetened beverage taxes: Berkeley Media Study Group’s Fernando Quintero offers up powerful talking points for media advocates in his blogpost, "Media advocacy strategy for soda tax measures: Preparing for tough questions."

Did you pitch a story, submit an editorial, or get something in the news? Send us a quick note so we can make sure your efforts are recognized.

How SWEET it would be: National law would tax the stacks of sugar in soda

Prevention Institute’s Rob Waters makes the case for DeLauro’s national soda tax at Forbes

Win or lose, SF and Berkeley soda tax measures are public health triumphs

Our friends over at Berkeley Media Studies Group explore how local soda tax proposals here in CA are reshaping the debate over the role of industry in chronic disease.

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