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First State begins looking at sugary drink tax

Delaware Public Media
The amount of sugar and added sugar in a sweet tea beverage

The State of Delaware is considering whether levying a soda tax is a good idea.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services is in the early stages of examining the possible effects of a statewide tax on sugary beverages.

Cities like Philadelphia, Seattle and Berkeley, California have passed soda taxes. Chicago passed and then repealed one.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association earlier this year issued a joint statement supporting a tax on sugary beverages, limiting marketing to children and financial incentives for choosing healthier options.

Helen Arthur heads Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in the Division of Public Health. She said being overweight or obese can be a risk factor for 13 types of cancer.

“The research is extremely clear," she said. "If we can reduce consumption of sugary drinks, we can lower prevalence of people being overweight and obese and can ultimately reduce obesity-related diseases.”

Gov. John Carney (D) signed legislation this week making water, milk or juice the default drink in kids meals. He said a sugary beverage tax is on the table.

“This is really a big issue with respect to childhood obesity and overweight," he said. "And so it is an issue that we ought to take a look at.”

Philadelphia implemented a soda tax in 2017. A May study by Penn Medicine researchers found sales of sugary and artificially sweetened drinks has fallen by 38 percent.

But a March study conducted by a Stanford University associate professor and others found many people went outside the city to buy soda, leaving the poor to shoulder most of the increased cost.

Soda taxes are unpopular with some members of the public.

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