Citing the “overwhelming link” between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the “skyrocketing rates” of preventable diseases, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., along with Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act, called the SWEET Act, this week, which proposes a tax of 1 cent per teaspoon of caloric sweetener, such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

“People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy. But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs,” said Rep. DeLauro. “There is a clear relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay. We are at a crucial tipping point and the SWEET Act will help correct the path we are currently on.”

The bill aims to discourage excessive consumption of the “empty-calorie” beverages. If enacted, it would also create a dedicated revenue source for vital public health programs, research and nutrition education through the Prevention and Public Health Fund. APHA and other health advocates voiced their support of the bill.

“Excess consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages takes a toll on the health and well-being of people across the nation and adds significantly to our rising health care costs,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “Just as tobacco taxes have spurred a major reduction in smoking, there is great potential for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce the consumption of these drinks and raise funds for obesity prevention. The SWEET Act does just that.”

APHA supports public health policy measures to counteract the rising rates of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among children and adults in the United States. In a 2012 policy statement, APHA states that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks “is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dental decay.” According to an article published in Health Affairs, a penny-per-ounce tax would reduce consumption by 15 percent among adults 25–64 years of age and prevent 2.4 million diabetes person-years, 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths.

The issue of imposing a “soda tax” has been ongoing in recent years. Most notably, in 2012, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. The SWEET Act brings this debate to Washington, highlighting the effect that sugary drinks have on the health and well-being of Americans and rising health care costs.