Tax Sugary Sodas to Combat Obesity?

America's expanding waistband is a well-documented and expensive problem. Some say part of the solution lies in taxing one of the causes of obesity - soft drinks full of sugar. But is it possible to legislate a leaner country? CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

Americans consume roughly 250 more calories every day than they did in the 1970s - and half those calories come from sugary drinks.

That's why some health advocates are urging Congress to help pay for health care reform with a tax on non-diet sodas.

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"We're not saying that calories from sugared beverages are different than any other calories," said Dr. Kelly Brownell of Yale University. "There's just too many of them."

Brownell says a 10 cent tax per can could yield $140 billion in revenue over ten years.

But the beverage industry is pushing back.

"This is no time for Congress to be adding taxes on the simple pleasures we all enjoy like juice drinks and soda," trumpeted one industry-backed TV ad.

There are several proposals for tackling obesity buried in the health care reform bills such as requiring calorie labeling on chain restaurant menus, removing high co-pays for nutrition counseling, and allowing larger insurance premium discounts for employees who participate in wellness programs at work.

But the president's plan was dealt another blow this weekend, when one of his major proposals - an independent panel of medical experts empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare - failed to pass financial muster with the Congressional Budget Office, which said such a panel would save little money.

Still, the White House contends it has reached agreement with Congress on 80 percent of the reform package.

But, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it, "There's no doubt that the 20 percent to go is not going to be necessarily easy, and it never has been."

So far the soft drink tax has gotten little traction in Congress. It might raise a lot of money but reformers worry it would unfairly burden lower income Americans.
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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