Soda Tax proposed to help offset Mississippi's high obesity rate - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Soda Tax proposed to help offset Mississippi's high obesity rate

JACKSON, MS - Lawmakers have proposed a bill that would tax soft drinks, much like the cigarette tax that was proposed in last year's legislative session.

State Senator Deborah Dawkins and Representative John Mayo asked the John Stennis Institute of Government to conduct a research study to see if there is a correlation between obesity and soda consumption.

This study found that Americans drink more soft drinks than any other country in the world, and that sugar consumption from sodas are 33 percent higher than other sweets like cookies, cakes, ice cream, fruit drinks and candy.

According to the Center's for Disease Control, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the nation at 33.4 percent. These results have trickled down into the youth where 35.8 percent of high schooler's are either overweight or obese.

"There has been research done that indicates, that for the average American they have increased their caloric intake by 150 to 300 calories a day," Research Analyst Judith Phillips from the Stennis Institute of Government said.

It's these extra calories Phillips says Mississippians could offset by eliminating soda intake.

Meanwhile, Ron Alderidge, State Director from the Beverage Commission, says taxing soft drinks won't eliminate the obesity problem in the state, or help with health care.

"But from the health care standpoint that shows you that excise taxes don't work."

Representative Mayo is hoping that's exactly what a "soda tax" would do by helping to eliminate the state's expensive medicare and medicaid costs.

"If you tax a certain item, product or service, then you're hoping to change something in that item product or service."

 Though Mayo says he doesn't think this piece of legislation will pass during this session, he wanted to speak out about it to help promote open discussion about obesity in Mississippi.

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