Obesity is a serious problem in U.S. society. It leads to ailments such as diabetes, which affects Latinos disproportionately and is the cause of heart and liver disease, as well as amputations. It also leads people to lose their job and to personal and familial suffering, all costing hundreds of millions annually to the state of California.
The progress of the disease is now measurable as cases of its worst variety, type 2, are increasingly seen among children. In the past, this kind only appeared in adults. A study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimated that type 2 diabetes is prevalent among 16.9% of Latinos, with 18.3% among Mexicans and 10.2% for non-Hispanic whites. Obesity among Latino children between the ages of 6 and 11 reached 26%, twice as much as Caucasian kids.
Obesity leading to diabetes is an emergency that deserves concrete responses. One of them is the Sacramento bill AB 2782, which charges distributors a 2-cent tax per ounce of sugar-sweetened drink. It is estimated that this will create nearly $3,000 million in revenue, which will be applied to number of health programs.
The tax is primarily expected to discourage soda consumption among young people, as companies are likely to pass the added cost on to consumers. Naturally, the industry will oppose this measure arguing that the bill will force them to cut jobs due to reduced sales, and that the complexities of the obesity problem require solutions other than raising the price of a beverage.
It is true that combating obesity, especially among children, has to do with general nutrition and exercise, but this is a start. Proposals to tax other food products have been introduced in Sacramento. As for the economic impact on the industry, it can also be sidestepped. Companies are known for the variety of the drinks they sell, so they could start by replacing their highest-calorie beverage and producing a healthier option.
The proposal contained in AB 2782 has been defeated before. Every year it failed to pass was yet another year we failed to take action against obesity and diabetes. It’s time to say enough is enough!