On Friday morning, Dr. Steven Safyer (speaking in video), the president of Montefiore Medical Center, made an impassioned plea for the implementation of the sugary drinks tax, a.k.a. the "soda tax."
The fight for and against this proposed state tax -- which health officials say would amount to about a 17% increase in the cost of drinks with a high sugar content (Coke, Pepsi, Snapple, Orange Crush, etc.) -- is being waged on airwaves, in supermarkets and on city streets.
Crain's estimated last week that the beverage industry (against the tax) and the Alliance for a Healthier New York (for the tax) had each spent some $2.9 million on their respective campaigns.
The beverage industry is making the argument that this is an unfair tax that will hit working-class families hardest. But Safyer, who spoke at a press conference at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, and the alliance say it will only affect families who continue to make the unhealthy choice of buying sugar-heavy drinks that are a primary culprit in the the Bronx's (and the state's) growing obesity and diabetes "epidemic."
Health care officials say this tax is an easy win-win. It will cut consumption of sugary drinks by an estimated 10% (which obviously isn't good news for the beverage companies) which, in turn, will prevent 150,000 people from becoming obese, according to Deputy Health Department Commissioner Dr. Andrew Goodman, who also participated in the press conference.
In addition, while it's unclear exactly where the tax money will go, Ken Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said the funding would go back into the state's struggling hospitals. He pointed to the recent shuttering of lower Manhattan's St. Vincent's Hospital as a reminder of what can happen when a facility is "chronically" underfunded.
Montefiore kicked off the press conference with a health fair where they showed some of the effects of drinking soda. Doctors there compared the proposed tax to the taxes on cigarettes, saying the taxes had proved effective. They compared the obesity epidemic to tuberculosis outbreaks and the spread of AIDS/HIV in the 1980s.
This fight, inevitably, will end up in the hands of the state legislature. So far, Bronx senators Jeff Klein and Ruth Hassell-Thompson have stated their opposition to the tax, while Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz says he's for it. If you know of others who have stated their position, let us know.