American Heart Association recommends Sugary Drink Tax to help fund PEIA

WHAT: The American Heart Association is urging members of the West Virginia Legislature to support a Sugary Drink Tax. House Bill 4344 creates a tiered tax that establishes different tax rates for sugary drinks based on the amount of sugar they contain (see graphic below). Research shows that a tax based on sugar content could reduce overall sugar consumption. This means that consumers can choose drinks with less sugar and a lower price point. The main goal of this legislation is to decrease sugar consumption by West Virginians as high levels of sugar consumption leads to increase risk of diabetes, heart disease and other preventable conditions. The bill also recommends that the funds raised go towards the WVU School of Health and to help fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).

According to a 2017 American Heart Association poll, 83% of West Virginians think state government should enact policies that help reduce diabetes, heart disease and other preventable health conditions. Currently, West Virginia ranks #1 in adult obesity rate and #1 in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. These preventable health conditions put a tremendous strain on West Virginia’s health care costs. One of the largest issues being reviewed in West Virginia is the lack of funding for PEIA and the rising costs of the state’s health care for its employees – especially teachers. Through the passage of this bill, an estimated $100 million could be raised annually, which would be a major boost to PEIA and to helping improve the wellness of the state’s workforce. Plus, this tax would lead to long-term health care cost savings for the state.

• 37.7% of West Virginians are obese: Highest rate in the nation (Trust For America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, August 2017)
• More than 1 in 7 West Virginia adults have diabetes (15.0%) which ranks West Virginia the highest nationally
• West Virginia’s average consumption rate is about 500 12oz servings of sugary drinks per person/per year.
• The overall cardiovascular disease prevalence is highest in the nation at 14.0%
• More than 5,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes are estimated to be diagnosed among US youth younger than age 20 each year.
• 35.1% of West Virginia children age 10 to 17 are with overweight or obese, ranking the state 7th worst in the nation.
• West Virginia has the highest prevalence in the nation of adults reporting fair or poor health (25.9%)
• Research shows that a tax based on sugar content could reduce overall sugar consumption by an even greater amount than a tax based solely on volume.
• Governing bodies can encourage healthier choices by placing greater taxes on high-sugar beverages and lower taxes on lower-sugar beverages.
• With the looming threat of rising health care costs, the time for funding PEIA is now and the Sugary Drink Tax proposed in HB 4344 would allow for a steady revenue stream for the agency.

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