A Bitter Taste

Bill Monning taped together 16 sugar packets to reflect the volume of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle of soda. He uses it as a prop when presenting to kids, slowly unfolding it as his audience guesses how much sugar is in a drink.

The list of negative health effects associated with being overweight is well understood by medical professionals and the general public: increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure. 

Increasingly, a similar list is linked specifically to sugar-sweetened beverages— whether soda or tea or fruit drinks, so-called "empty calories" that don't make you feel full. 

"Dozens of studies have explored possible links between soft drinks and weight, and they consistently show that increased consumption of soft drinks is associated with increased energy (caloric) intake," according to an analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health.

In short, the same conditions linked to weight gain are linked to drinking sweet beverages" "According to a large, long-term study of 37,716 men and 80,647 women in the U.S., the more sugary beverages people drink, the greater their risk of premature death—particularly from cardiovascular disease, and to a lesser extent from cancer."

These frightening stats have gone from the halls of academia to the Capitol in Sacramento, and State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, has been waging a war on behalf of public health and against Big Soda for years

That battle has included two efforts to get an excise tax on soda (similar to cigarettes), and two efforts to get a warning label requirement for soda. 

Once before, Monning's proposed warning label on sugar-sweetened drinks made it through the State Senate then died in the Assembly. The second try didn't make it through committee hearings in the State Senate. 

Maybe the third time's a charm: On Thursday, May 23, the State Senate passed Monning's SB 347 by a vote of 21-11. (State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, did not cast a vote on the bill.) 

Soda Warning Label

SB 347 would require drinks with added sweeteners of 75 calories or more per 12 ounces to have a warning label with a safety warning. 

It heads next to the Assembly, and Monning is feeling optimstic. 

“Today’s victory is a victory for children, families and public health and I want to acknowledge all who have worked so hard to win this important vote,” Monning says by email. 

He knows it will be an uphill battle: The beverage industry has invested heavily in battling restrictions and warning labels. According to a report last month in the Los Angeles Times, the industry has spent at least $11.8 million over the past two years in California in its effort to block such legislation.

If it becomes law, SB 347 would require that beverages with added sweeteners that are 75 calories or more per 12 ounces have a warning label that reads, "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay." 

As this bill persists, now in its third iteration, other legislative attempts to reign in soda consumption—including another tax effort—have stalled. Three other bills meant to limit consumption to benefit public health have died. 


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(1) comment

Charles Saves

A progressive, Democratic controlled state legislature that can pass anything does not equal a BIG win in any situation. This is behavior control with the threat of government intervention if you do not comply.

We are the California Borg. Open your doors and surrender your rights. We will change your thinking and actions to serve the State. We will take your income and tax it to make it our own. You will adapt to serve us. Resistance is futile.

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