Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) is seeking a national soda tax, an effort backed by leaders of the movement to ban smoking indoors and others who call carbonated beverages "toxic."
DeLauro introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act, also known as the "SWEET Act," on Wednesday, which would impose a 1 cent excise tax per teaspoon of caloric sweetener in soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweet teas.
"This act is intended to discourage excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by increasing the price of these products," according to the text of the legislation.
"People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy," DeLauro said in a statement. "But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs."
"There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay," she said. "We are at a crucial tipping point and the SWEET Act will help correct the path we are currently on."
"Soda and sugary beverages are the new tobacco and the fight to reduce their marketing and consumption is the next great public health battle," Cohen said. "I helped create the nation’s first multi-city no-smoking laws and advocated for years to increase the tax on tobacco."
"I see a sugar-sweetened beverage tax as just as valuable and just as groundbreaking," he said.
Cohen also blamed soda companies for creating a "nightmare of chronic diseases" for children, the poor, and minorities.
Another supporter, Dr. David Wallinga, of Healthy Food Action, called soda a "toxic asset." Marice Ashe, CEO and founder of ChangeLab Solutions in Oakland, Calif., said the bill would guide Americans into better dietary choices.
"Everyone deserves the opportunity to make choices that promote good health, and the SWEET Act is a tool to improve those opportunities," she said.
The tax would be imposed on manufacturers, producers, or importers, amounting to roughly 16 cents per 20-ounce soda. The penny tax would increase in 2016, when it would be indexed to inflation.
The bill defines "sugar-sweetened beverages" as "any liquid intended for human consumption which contains a caloric sweetener," and specifically identifies soft drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas, and sports drinks. Milk, soymilk, infant formula, and vegetable juice would be exempt.
The tax is targeted at Americans who are low-income, African American, Hispanic, and children, which the legislation calls "priority populations" due to higher rates of obesity and diabetes.
Revenue from the tax would go toward more nutrition and prevention programs, even though the bill admits such efforts have failed to curb childhood obesity.
"Despite significant public and private investment, childhood obesity rates remain high," it said.
The revenue will be transferred to the "Prevention and Public Health Fund," which was created by Obamacare. The initiative is currently researching, among other things, how to prevent old people and tribal elders from falling. The bill restricts funding for only diabetes, dental, dietary, and obesity research.
DeLauro’s bill would make up for funding that was cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund in 2012. The fund was initially meant to spend $2 billion per year, beginning in FY 2015.
DeLauro, who has been pushing a soda tax since 2012, said additional funding is needed because health problems related to obesity cost $190 billion annually, placing much of the blame on soda.
Democrats have attempted similar efforts at the state level. California proposed adding a warning label to soda. A penny per ounce tax was voted down in Chicago after complaints that it would cost consumers almost $3 more for a 12-pack case of soda, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super-sized soda ban was also rejected.