State representative suggests tax on soda

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - If your list of must-have drinks include soda, it could cost you close to 50 cents more under a proposed soda tax bill. The tax would also apply to pre-sweetened drinks like certain juices, teas, and energy drinks.

As the bill is written now, only wholesalers of sodas and sugary drinks would be taxed. But, the bill's creator, Representative John Mayo, of Clarksdale, Mississippi, said he's aware that most or all of the cost could be handed down to consumers. The idea of the tax is stirring up mixed reactions among South Mississippians.

"Well, yes and no," said Nick Matroni of Gulfport. "I don't think they should tax."

"It is unhealthy," said Shantanya Clarke of Biloxi. "Diabetes, heart problems, it starts from here."

Representative Mayo, the man behind the bill, said the Stennis Institute is currently conducting a study on the tax and estimates it could raise anywhere from $110 and $147 million.

Mayo said the push behind the bill is two-fold. He hopes to encourage Mississippians to make smarter, healthier choices and to pay for programs teaching people how to make healthier food choices and live healthier lives.

The representative would like to see the money go to the Department of Health, Department of Education and the Mississippi Development Authority. Mayo said the hope is to get Mississippi thinking more in terms of preventative care, as opposed to being in a reactionary mode.

"I hope it passes this year," Rep. Mayo said. "It's focusing attention on what are healthy choices and what are not; it's a start."

"If you choose to be fat by making unhealthy choices, why should those of us who choose to be healthy pay for your obesity?"

The representative's intentions may be good, but people like Nick Matroni believe it all depends on how the public perceives them.

"There's a positive and negative to everything," Matroni said.

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