Health officials bringing obesity fight to the Capitol

Health officials bringing obesity fight to the Capitol

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's going to be a food fight at the state capitol, and it's all about sugar.

Representatives from the Hawaii Public Health Institute held a briefing at the capitol to inform lawmakers of their legislative priorities for the upcoming session.

"They're all important issues, they're all important policy priorities, and it's such a huge epidemic that's growing. We really have to hit it from all forces or we're not going to go anywhere" said Executive Director Jessica Yamauchi.

The epidemic in question is childhood obesity. The Obesity task force has four priorities for 2015, and the first three aren't overly controversial.

  1. Safety warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  2. Making healthy drinks the default option on kids' menus.
  3. A mandatory physical examination of 7th graders.

The last one, however, will be. It's a proposed one cent fee per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage, syrup or powder. Hence, a 20-ounce soda would come with a twenty cent fee. A six-pack of 12-ounce sodas would come with a $2.40 fee. The fees collected would then be put into a fund to help curb and prevent obesity.

Officials project $38 million in collected fees and an 8-10% reduction in consumption.

"You talk about a large tax, then we have a lot of push and pull in the state, but I'm glad they're moving the dialogue forward" said Senate Health Committee Chair, State Senator Josh Green.

"You can't just do education. You can't just leave it up to the parents. It has to be a multi-pronged approach" added Yamauchi.

Legislation has yet to be drafted, and there could be tweaks to all the measures involved.

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