Child obesity rate prompts possible soda sales tax


December 7th, 2010

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For the first time, children's lives may be shorter than their parents (Photo courtesy Robert Lawton: Wikimedia Commons)

Lincoln, NE – One in five children in the nation is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and a survey of fifth graders in Lincoln found just over 20% fit that category, the state medical association said. That’s led to predictions that for the first time in the nation’s history, children’s lives will be shorter than their parents. So the Nebraska Medical Asssoication is recommending that the state end its current sales tax exemption for soda and energy drinks, which have no nutritional value. Dr. Bob Rauner rejects criticism that the proposal smacks of the nanny state. He makes the point with an analogy:

“I have the same opinion on duct tape as I do for pop,” said Rauner. “Duct tape should be subject to tax as well. Just because it’s subject to sales tax doesn’t mean we’re telling you you can’t have duct tape. Same thing with pop or energy drinks. We’re not telling you you can’t have it. We just don’t think it should be tax-encouraged, just like charitable donations or athsma medicines or something like that.”

Rauner said ending the tax exemption could raise more than $11 million a year, which could be used to give schools incentives to adopt better health policies or help close the state’s budget gap. The group is also proposing not allowing people in the SNAP program, formerly Food Stamps, to use their assistance to buy pop or energy drinks. And it wants the state to pass legislation protecting women’s right to breastfeed anywhere outside the home. Currently, he said, women are subject to being kicked out of places like museums, or even being arrested for indecent exposure. Rauner said Nebraska and Idaho are the only two states without breastfeeding protections currently in law.

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