Legislature Considering Sugary Drinks Tax

MHA – joining with the Massachusetts Health Council, the Boston Foundation and the American Heart / American Stroke Association – testified Tuesday before the Joint Committee on Revenue in strong support of a tiered excise tax proposal on sugary drinks. SB1562/HB3329, filed by Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) recommends three tiers: drinks with little or no added sugars will not be taxed at all; drinks with moderate amounts of added sugars will be subject to a one-cent-per-ounce tax rate; and drinks with 20 grams or more of sugar per 12 ounces would be taxed at two cents per ounce. The proposal does not ban sugary drinks; people can buy as much as they want. But it encourages the beverage industry to reformulate their products and avoid taxation by reducing the sugar content in their beverages. 

“The statistical evidence is clear that the rate of type 2 diabetes among the youth of our country is rising due to more overweight children,” said MHA’s President & CEO Lynn Nicholas, FACHE, who before coming to MHA was president of the American Diabetes Association. “Sugary drinks, unlike junk foods which may contribute some nutrition to the diet, are just ‘empty’ calories. Drinking just one sugary drink a day increases a man’s risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack by 20%. So taking the initial steps to improve public health by dissuading the consumption of beverages with proven harm and little nutritional value should be a no-brainer.”

It has been estimated that the tiered tax could raise $360 million annually, the monies of which would go towards prevention and well ness programs, DPH’s “Mass in Motion” program, nutrition programs, and municipal grants to improve water quality and water access.