May 12th, 2011

Mass. poll finds support for soda tax

The Boston Globe

In the past three years, Governor Deval Patrick has proposed applying the state sales tax to soda and candy, a measure aimed at raising revenue and curbing consumption of products that researchers tie to rising obesity rates among the state’s adults and children. Each time, lawmakers refused to go along.

The Boston Foundation, the largest public charity in New England, is hoping to change the trend this year. The group is pushing a bill to tax the products, saying the public is behind it.
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Sixty-nine percent of Massachusetts voters would support the tax, if the money raised were used to support local schools or programs to reduce obesity in children, according to a new poll commissioned by the foundation and NEHI, a national health policy institute based in Cambridge.

People were evenly split, however — 49 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed — when asked if they would support the sales tax on soda and candy without limits on how the revenue could be used. The survey of 501 people statewide was conducted March 20 to April 2 by MassINC Polling Group.

State health officials estimate that more than half of all adults and nearly one-third of children in middle school and high school are overweight or obese. The tax would be an “opening shot’’ in an ongoing effort to change those numbers, said foundation president Paul S. Grogan.

“We’re not saying [soda] is the single cause, but it’s a major contributor,’’ Grogan said.

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