Photo: Mike Mozart/FlickrCC

Something has to change. You know that as well as I do.

You’ve been bombarded with the enormous numbers for so long now, that they no longer feel like they really mean anything. The tens of thousands of sick children, the hundreds of millions of dollars it costs us, the life expectancy rate falling, the West Virginians dying young.

The facts of the issue are so horrifying that we’ve become immune to them I think.

So I’m not going to throw more numbers at you. Because I know you already know that we have a problem.

All I’m going to ask of you is that you demand that West Virginia’s state legislators do something to begin to fight against the obesity epidemic that is crippling our state and its people. Anything.

Thanks in part to these companies’ relentless pursuit of profits, this generation of young Americans is the first in modern U.S. history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

Adding just a few cents to the price of the sugary soda drinks that are partly responsible for this crisis is at least a start.

That’s why we support the proposal for a Sugary Drinks Tax that will be considered in the current legislative session.

Now, you’ll probably hear lots of people raise lots of different arguments against a Sugary Drinks Tax.

That’s because Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and their trade group, the American Beverage Association, spend tens of millions of dollars each year on lobbying and public relations to fight against proposals like this.

Why? Because their billion dollar profits depend on people consuming more of their product, despite the fact that it makes them sick. Their marketing particularly targets children. Their profits depend on children consuming too much sugar each day, getting fat and getting sick.

Thanks in part to these companies’ relentless pursuit of profits, this generation of young Americans is the first in modern U.S. history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

The proposal is simple. By adding a few extra cents to cost of the soda that is making our kids sick, we can hopefully discourage them from drinking so much of it. And that tax of a few cents will provide a new revenue stream of millions of dollars to pay for health services in West Virginia.

In the City of Philadelphia, a new soda tax was projected to bring in $46 million in the first six months of 2017. It only produced about $40 million. That sounds like a revenue failure that I think West Virginia could really use.

Right now, we need every dollar we can get to help West Virginia’s sick and underserved population, and to improve the health of our future generations.

Like I said, the soda companies and their lobbyists will be working hard to smokescreen and confuse you about the issue.

You’ll hear that this is “a micro solution to a macro problem” – that reducing consumption of sugary drinks is not going to solve the entire problem of obesity or the connection between poverty and poor health in America.

No, it won’t. But it’s a start. This argument is just an excuse to do nothing. It’s kind of like saying that requiring people to wear seatbelts is not going to prevent all car accident injuries, so we shouldn’t bother.

You’ll also hear that it won’t generate as much money for health programs as supporters will calculate.

One such “failure” that opponents highlight is in the City of Philadelphia, where a new soda tax was projected to bring in $46 million in the first six months of 2017. It only produced about $40 million.

That sounds like a revenue failure that I think West Virginia could really use.

The health of all West Virginians, particularly children, stand to benefit from this effort to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks.

Soft drink companies stand to lose a small fraction of their multi-billion dollar profits.

As debate continues this year about instituting a Sugary Drinks Tax in West Virginia, pay attention to which side your legislator fights for.

To learn more about what the West Virginia Rural Health Association is supporting this legislative session, contact Executive Director Debrin Jenkins at debrinwvrha@gmail.com.

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