Sugar, Tobacco Tax Passes in Several U.S. Communities

It has been an historic election season with results that are still being talked about around the world. In addition to the controversial election of our next president, there were several other important decisions made on November 8th. Several communities around the country voted in new soda and tobacco taxes, a move that could ultimately help in the fight against oral disease.

According to a recent article from the American Dental Association (ADA), cities in California, Colorado and Illinois voted in new soda taxes. Consumers who purchase sugar-sweetened beverages, like iced teas, smoothies and soft drinks, in Albany, Oakland and San Francisco, will be charged an extra cent per ounce for their drinks. In Boulder, Colorado, voters approved a two-cent-per-ounce increase on distributors of beverages with at least five grams of added sugar per 12 ounces. Drinks that are exempt from the tax include alcoholic and medical beverages, milk products and 100% juice drinks. Meanwhile, the Cook County Board in Illinois, approved a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and artificially sweetened drinks, affecting the county’s 5.2 million residents, including those living in Chicago. This makes the region the nation’s largest to impose a soda tax.

Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Maine, and a national media spokesman for the ADA, stated that he expects more and more communities will be “looking at soda taxes as an option.”

Earlier this year, Philadelphia was the first U.S. city to impose a soda tax. There, consumers pay a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar sweetened and diet beverages, including soda, sports drinks, juices, and flavored water.

“Increasing the cost of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages will ultimately reduce their consumption, which is of great value for dental professionals,” added Dr. Shenkin. He encourages dentists to join in on campaigns supporting soda taxes locally.

Last November, the ADA House of Delegates endorsed the World Health Organization’s recommendation to limit added sugar consumption to less than 10% of daily caloric intake, after WHO released a report supporting a tax on sugary drinks in hopes of reducing obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

In California, voters enthusiastically approved Proposition 56 that increases the state cigarette tax by $2 per pack. The proposition, which was in part sponsored by the California Dental Association, also applies to tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Nearly 63% of voters said “yes” to the tax.

“Proposition 56 will save thousands of lives, save the health care system billions of dollars and provide substantial new funding for the state’s Medi-Cal program so more patients can get care,” the CDA said. “Also, the state oral health program overseen by California’s dental director will now receive $30 million per year, a tenfold increase in state funding for a program that has not previously had a dedicated revenue source.”

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