"This is simply a money grab," continued Stevens. "It's not supported by science, and it's not supported by common sense. The argument that taxing one single product would have an effect on obesity rates is overly simplistic."
Others feel that the tax, while admirable, does not effectively target the problem as it extends to beverages with less than 70 percent natural fruit juice. Liz Morrill, founder and CEO of the Manhattan-based Fizzy Lizzy brand of sparkling juices, recently came out against the tax, arguing that it would apply to her half juice, half seltzer beverages that contain far fewer calories and less sugar than straight juice.
"Because the legislation basically wraps the entire category in an umbrella, it ends up including drinks like ours, which are designed to provide a less caloric, healthy alternative to soda," said Morrill. "If its aim is to get children to drink less caloric beverages, then it seems to me that the criteria should be something extremely objective."
She pointed out that a 12-ounce bottle of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange " with 165 calories and 33 grams of sugar " would be exempt from the obesity tax, while her tangerine drink"with 100 calories and 24 grams of sugar"would be subject to it. Along with sales tax (also imposed based on juice content), consumers would be charged a 26 percent tax on her product.
Morrill will testify to the Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 2, when it examines the health and Medicare portion of the budget.
Though the obesity tax may seem unusual, New York isn't the first state to dabble in a sin tax of this nature. In April of 2008, Maine adopted a tax on soda, beer and wine aimed at funding affordable state health care. Soda was hit with a 42-cent-per-gallon charge, and the syrup used to make soda at fountains was taxed at $4 per gallon.