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AB 138, a measure to levy a 2 cent per fluid ounce tax on sugary drinks, has become a “two-year bill”. The bill will remain in the Assembly Revenue & Taxation Committee over the remainder of this legislative year and will move forward through the legislative process next year.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica), who authored the measure issued the following statement on the bill’s status: “While this is not the outcome I had hoped for, AB 138 remains alive in the legislative process, albeit on a slower track. This delay is unfortunate because, with the health outcomes of millions of Californians at stake, there is no time to lose. On the other hand, we will now have the time to build an even bigger and stronger coalition of supporters.”

AB 138 is supported by a broad coalition of organizations representing medical practitioners, educators, and community activists. As the health impacts of sugary drinks have become increasingly unmistakable, support for a sugary drink tax has grown, with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Heart Association, Public Health Institute, and California Medical Association expressing alarm and calling for such a tax in recent years.

Over the past several decades, diabetes and obesity have become increasingly prevalent, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. Last year, doctors at the University of Southern California and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles discovered that sugar from sweetened beverages can be passed to nursing infants through breast milk, potentially making children predisposed to obesity and deadly fatty livers. Another study identified a genetic link between sugar consumption and fatty liver disease, which, by some estimates, is present in 45% of the Latino population. Over half of the 45 deaths attributed to fatty liver disease in LA County in 2016 were among Latinos, and these numbers are likely underestimates of the deaths that can be attributed to this disease. These studies are among dozens that have identified overconsumption of the liquid form of sugar as the culprit in a broad range of serious health issues.

“The price of the legislature’s inaction on this issue is human lives and reduced quality of life for the millions of Californians experiencing poor health outcomes as a result of diabetes and obesity. This toll is also felt financially by both the state and the general public, who face skyrocketing healthcare costs as a result of these chronic conditions. It shouldn’t take a crisis to motivate action, but we are now at a crisis point and I hope action will soon follow.”

Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.

Submitted by Nardos Girma, Legislative Director

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