RI lawmakers to hear bill seeking to tax sugary drinks


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Soon you could be paying more for your favorite soda or sports drink in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island lawmakers will hear a new bill Thursday looking to establish a tax on sugary drinks in the state.

 The bill introduced in February by Sen. Valarie Lawson and Rep. Jean Philippe Barros would designate a portion of the revenues generated to help expand access to nutritious meals for Rhode Islanders struggling to put food on the table.

According to the bill, there’s overwhelming evidence of the link between diabetes and obesity, and the consumption of sugary beverages. Supporters say that taxing these types of drinks will promote healthier choices, reduce chronic disease in the state and help some of the most vulnerable populations.

Under the bill, beverage distributors would pay a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on bottled sugary drinks, syrups, or powders offered for sale. The tax does not apply to products without added sugars, such as diet sodas or bottled water.

A portion of the revenue from the tax would provide SNAP recipients with a minimum $0.50 credit on their EBT Card for each $1 spent on fresh fruits and vegetables at participating retailers to encourage the purchase of healthy foods.

Supporters say they plan to testify in favor of the bill during a House Finance Committee hearing at 4 p.m.

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