Soda war bubbles up in CA


(CBS News) As obesity rates climb across the country, local officials in California are hoping to add higher taxes on sugary drinks as the newest deterrent in the national fight against fat.

Dr. Jeff Ritterman, a cardiologist and city councilman from Richmond, Calif., is leading the charge behind a ballot measure that proposes a penny-an-ounce tax on any beverage with with calorie-boosting sweeteners. The measure is distinctive from recent proposals in other U.S. states because if passed, it would levy a tax against the businesses selling the drinks, as opposed to the consumers buying them.

"These are not innocuous drinks," Ritterman told CBS News' Terrell Brown in a report that aired Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "These are bad for you, this is a bigger killer right now than cigarettes in our country."

The move comes weeks after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a proposed ban on oversized sugary beverages. The southern California city of El Monte is following Ritterman's lead with a similar tax initiative.

Dr. Ritterman estimates that the proposed tax, which will be voted on in November, will raise approximately $3 million for the town of Richmond and adds that "For $86,000, we can teach every third grader in Richmond how to swim."

Opponents of the measure -- including the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, represented by San Francisco PR executive Chuck Finnie -- argue that the tax will increase the cost of doing business in Richmond and says the money raised from the tax is not currently allocated to relevant local health programs.

"The money raised from it," Finnie said, "not one thin dime of that revenue is specifically for anti-obesity programs in Richmond."

For Terrell Brown's full report, watch the video above.