States Explore Approaches to Reduce Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

July 13, 2017|12:10 p.m.| KT Kramer and Andy Baker-White

Excessive consumption of sugar is linked to obesity and poor nutrition. There is also a relationship between consuming added sugars and a risk of cardiovascular disease in adults. With sugar-sweetened beverages accounting for nearly half of all added sugars consumed in the United States, policymakers are exploring ways to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage healthy behaviors.  

One strategy being explored is the assessment of excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. Proponents of excise taxes argue that they can help change unhealthy behaviors and generate revenue for initiatives to improve population health, while avoiding negative impacts on employment. Opponents claim that excise taxes undervalue personal choice, hurt businesses and employment, and cannot sustain population health initiatives as demand for products decrease.

As a growing number of local jurisdictions implement such taxes, several states have considered statewide measures. During the 2017 legislative season, at least nine states introduced bills to create or study sugar-sweetened beverage taxes: AZ SB 1433, CA HB 1003, CT HB 7314, HI SB 375/SB 837/HB 1210/SCR 2017 155/HCR 2017 128, IL SB 9/HB 2914, ME LD 1550, MA HB 3329/SB 1562, NY AB 3353, and WA HB 1975. States have proposed a variety of approaches to assessing the tax rate, defining sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g., several bills exclude medical food and beverages), and directing the revenue from the tax (e.g., the New York bill would fund statewide childhood obesity prevention activities and programs). 

Beyond using taxes to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, states have also recently considered bills requiring warning labels about obesity, tooth decay, and diabetes on sugar-sweetened beverages, such as a bill in Hawaii (HI HB 1209), as well as bills like the one in New Hampshire (NH SB 103), which restricts advertising on school grounds. Additionally, state and local jurisdictions can promote consumption of water and develop comprehensive nutrition strategies to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. ASTHO will continue to follow the ways in which states promote healthier eating and lifestyles.