Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has joined the American Heart Association and the Latino Coalition for a Health California in announcing legislation that will create a dedicated revenue source to address the alarming health impacts of diabetes and heart disease. The legislation, AB 1357, will establish a 2-cent-per-ounce health impact excise fee on sugary drinks that generate an estimated $3 billion a year. These funds will be used to create the “Children’s and Family Health Promotion Program” to prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, heart and dental disease — conditions that are the result of the over-consumption of sweetened beverages.

“Sugar sweetened beverages are causing Californians to become overweight and have led to an epidemic of diabetes,” said Bloom who authored the bill. “The beverage industry is marketing larger sized bottles and fountain drinks. They are using larger and larger cups especially when marketing to children. There are zero health benefits to drinking such a beverage and public health experts agree that a reduction in consumption is imperative. My bill aims to do just that.”

Officials said that across California, low-income communities of all types face great barriers to being healthy. Bloom’s office said this legislation would provide communities with tools that help children and families live healthier lives by promoting healthy living in a variety of ways, including providing increased access to clean drinking water and educating consumers in underserved communities about healthier options in the community and school environment.

“Californians are becoming increasingly overweight — consuming more empty calories per day — and the number one cause is consumption of sugar sweetened beverages,” said Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President, American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate. “For example, a Super Big Gulp, which is 44 oz., has approximately 523 calories and the equivalent of 35 teaspoons of sugar. That’s nearly six times what the American Heart Association recommends for most women in one day. We should aim to protect the health of our children and families.”

Bill supporters said there are widespread health risks associated with drinking sugary beverages, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Across the nation and in California, diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of American teens that has diabetes or pre-diabetes has increased from nine percent to 25 percent. Unless this growth trend is reversed, one in three children born after 2000 — and one in two Latino and African American children — will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

“We are tired of burying our family members from Type 2 diabetes. It is a tragedy that this disease is so prevalent in our community that many Latinos now believe that getting diabetes is normal. The revenue from AB 1357 will establish a long overdue, sustained funding source for diabetes prevention in California, prioritizing communities with the highest diabetes rates,” says Xavier Morales, Executive Director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

Over the last 30 years the average American’s daily intake of calories has increased by approximately 300 calories. Sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, sweetened teas, sports drinks, and sweetened waters and fruit flavored drinks, account for 43 percent of that increase, and the average American now drinks more than 45 gallons of SSBs per year.

A statewide coalition – led by the American Heart Association and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, along with other leading health organizations such as Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy & Leadership, California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB), Public Health Institute (PHI), 100 Black Men (Orange County and Sacramento), Urban League of Los Angeles, Council of Black Nurses and Roots of Change – has formed to advocate for the fee on sugary drinks to protect family health. The coalition is launching an educational campaign, “Choose HEALTH CAlifornia,” to raise awareness of the health risks of SSBs and generate support for the proposed fee in AB 1357.

The bill will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, May 12.

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