The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP — what you may know as “food stamps” — provides much-needed assistance to low-income Texans and their families. Recently, two bills have been filed at the Texas Legislature that seek to restrict what SNAP recipients can buy with that assistance. House Bill 751, by Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo), would ban the purchase of “sweetened beverages with SNAP benefits. Another bill, HB 523 by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), would ban energy drinks — but not coffee” — from the SNAP program.
The Texas Beverage Association opposes all efforts to restrict choice for any consumers — including those who receive SNAP assistance.
Here’s what you need to know:
• Advocates for low-income Texans — the strongest supporters of SNAP funding — are also opposed to SNAP restrictions (http://forabettertexas.org/images/2012_05_22_AltToSNAPRestrictions.pdf). For example, the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) concludes, “ participation in the SNAP program does not contribute to the obesity epidemic, it is not a practical place to look to reverse the problem. … There is no empirical evidence that restricting choice in SNAP will improve diets or reduce obesity.” In fact, CPPP believes that SNAP restrictions “will likely decrease SNAP participation and increase obesity and food insecurity.”
SNAP assistance consumers are capable of making grocery choices for their families. Importantly, the beverage industry is helping consumers make that choice more easily by placing clear calorie labels on the front of every can, bottle and pack we produce so consumers know exactly how many calories they are getting before they buy. Our industry also offers more low- and no-calorie options in an array of portion sizes. This has lead to a 23 percent reduction in the average calories per serving since 1998.
• Our beverages — not just sodas, but teas, juices, flavored waters and sports drinks — only account for about 7 percent of the calories in US diets (NHANES 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db110.htm). When it comes to healthy and balanced diets, there’s nothing unique about beverages that justifies special SNAP restrictions more than any other food product. Despite headlines about energy drinks — which HB 523 defines solely by their caffeine content — they are no more “unhealthy” than coffee. In fact, despite the misperceptions, most mainstream energy drinks contain about half the caffeine as a similar size cup coffeehouse coffee
What You Can Do: Contact your state representative and let him or her know that you’re opposed to SNAP restrictions that don’t work, restrict freedom of choice, and make the whole program less effective. You can also get the word out to your friends, neighbors and networks and counter misinformation in the media. Stay current on the issue by visiting us here at txbev.org or following @TxBev on Twitter.
Every so often, we see proposals to “help people make healthier choices” by charging higher taxes on soda. This session of the Texas Legislature is no exception; two bills filed by Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio), HB 735 and HB 779, would impose taxes on regular beverages.
In HB 735, the proposed tax is 5 cents per 12 ounces; in HB 779, it’s a penny per ounce. In both bills, retailers and wholesalers would be required to obtain a new permit to sell regular beverages, and the taxes collected would be allocated to the state’s education and health agencies to support children’s health programs.
The Texas Beverage Association supports healthy choices, but regressive and unfair sales taxes on a single type of product will not make Texans healthy. Here’s what you need to know about higher taxes on sweetened beverages:
• Soda taxes won’t make people healthy. Lots of researchers have tried to find evidence that soda taxes would lead to improvements in public health, and so far that evidence just isn’t there. For example, in a George Mason University study in 2010 found that even a huge 40% tax on soda could only be expected to produce an average annual weight loss of about 1.3 pounds per person. Another study looked at a 20% tax (higher than HB 735, lower than HB 779) and found the expected weight loss was too small to even measure on a bathroom scale.
• Public Opposes Soda Taxes. Considering how often we hear them proposed, it’s worth noting that nearly all attempts to impose new soda taxes have failed. Maine and Washington have tried it, but unhappy voters forced a referendum and repealed the taxes by a 2-1 margin. New York failed twice to pass soda taxes even with the governor’s support. Interestingly, two states that do have special taxes on soda — Arkansas and West Virginia — are in the Top 10 for obesity rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
What You Can Do: Contact your state representative and let him or her know that you’re opposed to HB 735 and HB 779 and all similar wrong-headed and ineffective tax proposals. You can also get the word out to your friends, neighbors and networks and counter misinformation in the media. Stay on top of the issue by visiting us here at txbev.org or following @TxBev on Twitter.
In response to the recent Soda Tax Bill proposed by Rep. Farias (D- San Antonio), the Texas Beverage Association has released this official statement:
“Representative Farias’ proposed tax on hundreds of soft drinks would directly hurt Texas restaurants, movie theaters, and supermarkets in the state. Texas is a role model throughout America for lower taxes and reasonable regulation can spuring economic growth. Over the past several years, approximately 30 states and cities across the country have proposed beverage taxes, and all have failed. What Texans eat, drink and feed our families is our choice and doesn’t need government control or oversight” – Texas Beverage Association
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