Soda tax on the table in Mississippi

By Jason Miles - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) –A 12-pack of Nugrape soda comes in a "fridge friendly" package.  But the 200 calories per can may not be kind to your waistline.  And some say popping the top on too many sodas is part of the reason so many Mississippians are too fat.

"Mississippi leads the nation in obesity," said state Rep. John Mayo of Clarksdale.

Mayo, a Democrat, will introduce a proposed tax on sugary sodas and similar beverages next month.  The tax is aimed at fighting obesity and related healthcare costs.

"We have to start the conversation somewhere on how families can be healthier," Mayo said.

In its current form, the tax would only be levied on soda wholesalers.  However, it's likely the extra cost would be passed to consumers.

"I'm in favor of it, I really am," said shopper Rebecca Chappell.

She wouldn't mind paying more for the soda she puts in her shopping cart.

"Kind of goes along with this idea of preventive healthcare, which I think is the way we could save a lot of money," Chappell said.

Diet sodas like would be exempt.  But the cost of an average non-diet 2-liter could rise by more than 50 cents.

"I drink sodas, but I certainly wouldn't want to pay more for them if I had too," said shopper Anna Barnes.

Mayo says he expects an uphill battle from those opposed to any new tax.

"And for those lobbyists who say, "Why don't you start with french fries?' Well, the reason is we're starting with sodas," he said.

The state of Arkansas has had a special tax on soft drinks since 1992.  Bills have been proposed, but never passed, in Tennessee.  Meantime, a federal tax is currently being discussed.

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