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California takes an unhealthy step back

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California has passed a 12-year ban on any city imposing a sugar tax on soft drinks.

The bizarre and retrograde move has sparked a backlash from healthcare groups across the State, who are now campaigning for a sugar levy to form a major platform of the 2020 election battleground.

The health groups want to see a soda tax initiative on the ballot that will help pay for public health programs. They are insisting the initiative should also enshrine in the State’s constitution the right of any local government to impose their own sugar taxes.

Chief executive of the California Medical Association Dustin Corcoran, who is behind the initiative, described sugar-induced obesity as a health crisis that needed to be urgently addresses.

“This initiative gives voters a real opportunity to do that,” he said.

“Big soda has been a major contributor to the alarming rise in obesity and diabetes.”

The proposal is for a two-cents-per-fluid-ounce tax, which would translate to an extra 24 cents onto the cost of a 12-ounce can of soda, or an extra $1.34 for a two-litre bottle of soda.

It could raise up to $1.9 billion annually.

The battle between healthcare groups and the soft drink industry is now in full flight.

The American Heart Association has vowed to have the new law rolled back.

“We were disappointed that the American Beverage Association and their member companies went to such great lengths to take away the right of Californians to vote for better health,” chief executive Nancy Brown said.

“We will be relentless in our work with communities across the State to improve public health through a statewide tax, and to restore the rights of Californians to vote for what they believe best supports health in their State.”

Health professionals are describing the antics that led California legislators to hand soda companies a 12-year reprieve as “extortion” from the powerful soda industry.

And they have promised to rain on the parade.

A statement from the California Dental Association said: “Big Soda may have won a cynical short-term victory but, for the sake of our children’s health, we cannot and will not allow them to undermine California’s long-term commitment to health care and disease prevention.”

 CHRIS JOHNSON

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