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A solid majority of California voters favor warning labels on sodas and sugary drinks as well as a tax on those beverages to pay for school nutrition and exercise programs, according to a poll released Thursday, Feb. 20.
Most respondents to the Field Poll also favor restricting food stamp recipients from buying sugar-laden drinks and banning sugary beverages from being sold in vending machines and cafeterias at children's hospitals, after-school centers and child care facilities.
The poll comes as Sacramento lawmakers consider legislation to require warnings on such drinks that they increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
San Francisco County supervisors are considering a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks to generate an estimated $31 million for recreation and nutrition programs.
The poll was conducted on behalf of The California Endowment, a private health foundation.
"Consumers will benefit by having warning labels on soda packaging just as they did when warning labels were placed on tobacco products," the foundation's Senior Vice President Daniel Zingale said in a statement accompanying the poll. "With obesity a very real threat to the health of their children, parents need this information in order to make decisions about what's best for their families."
One in three U.S. adults and 17 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The beverage industry opposes warning labels and taxes. The American Beverage Association, an industry group, maintains sodas are unfairly blamed for America's obesity problem and a tax won't make Americans healthier.
"No matter how you look at it, soda taxes mean fewer jobs," a recently association news release said. "Americans have made it clear they don't support taxes and other restrictions on common grocery items, like soft drinks. Soda taxes have unintended consequences on middle-class jobs and small businesses."
Proposals in recent years to enact soda taxes in El Monte in Los Angeles County and Richmond in Northern California failed at the ballot box. And a Redlands councilman's soda-tax proposal in 2012 died for lack of support from other council members.
A recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found almost two-thirds of California teenagers in 2011-12 drank sugary drinks every day, up 8 percent from 2005-07.
The study found that soda consumption was up 9 percent in San Bernardino County compared to 2005-07; with three-fourths of the county's adolescents reporting drinking at least one sugary drink a day. The rate remained steady in Riverside County, where 65 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds said they drank at least one sugary beverage every day.
The Field Poll found 74 percent of respondents backed the label requirement, with 52 percent strongly in favor. Support crossed party lines, with 8 in 10 Democratic voters, 75 percent of independent voters and almost two-thirds of Republican voters in favor.
A late 2012 poll found 68 percent of statewide voters supporting warning labels.
Two-thirds of those polled support a sugary beverage tax. The result mirrors the 2012 poll, in which 68 percent favored the tax. Sixty-three percent support distributing soda tax revenue based on a community's diabetes and obesity rates; those with bigger problems would get more.
Seven in 10 of those polled favor changing the rules so that those on government food assistance could not buy sodas and sugary drinks in grocery stores. Sixty-two percent support a ban on sugary drink sales in certain facilities frequented by children, such as children's hospitals and youth centers.
California already bans sodas from being sold in public schools. The poll found 58 percent of respondents support a ban on the sale of sports drinks in school vending machines and school stores and snack bars.
The telephone poll of 1,002 registered voters took place between Nov. 14 and Dec. 5. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 to 4.5 percentage points.