W.Va. Should Add Tax On Sugary Beverages

It is well-known that compared to other states, West Virginia ranks at or near the bottom in terms of overall health. The statistics are true for adults, as well as our children. This health crisis requires urgent intervention.

One of the leading causes of poor health is obesity, which leads to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, among other diseases. High consumption of sugar is a primary cause of obesity, and sugary drinks are the leading source.

In this year’s legislative session, a bipartisan House bill, HB 4344, aims to reduce consumption of sugary drinks by adding a graduated tax, as a way of motivating consumers to choose less sugar-laden options. Many of these substitutes are made by the same manufacturers of their sugary alternatives.

Tax increases are rarely popular, however the American Heart Association, backed by science, strongly supports this bill. Here are a few facts that make passage of this bill so important:

– West Virginia has the highest adult obesity and Type 2 Diabetes prevalence rates in the nation.

– Sugary drinks such as fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened waters and teas, energy drinks, and soda have been identified as the primary source of added sugars in American diets.

– Sugary drinks are the single biggest source of added sugars consumed by those living in the United States.

– People who drink one to two cans of sugary drinks regularly have a 26 percent greater risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes than those who rarely consume them.

– Children who consume higher amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages have a 55 percent greater chance of being overweight or obese compared to those who consume fewer sugar-sweetened drinks.

– Poor nutrition is one of the leading lifestyle risk factors for chronic health and early mortality.

Other communities that have raised the tax on sugary drinks have shown that a small increase in the price can reduce consumption by 8-10 percent .In West Virginia, this could result in as significant reduction in obesity, and resultant health issues.

For the sake of the health of West Virginians, I urge you to reach out to your legislators and encourage them to support HB 4344.

Bob Pepper, board member

American Heart Association