New tax on alcohol and soft drinks could become a reality

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But that's not all; plenty of others are getting into the melee:

Besides alcohol, drinks with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and similar sweeteners would be targeted, though diet drinks with artificial sweeteners would not. Other industries also are on alert, worried that the idea of "lifestyle taxes" could spread to other products deemed unhealthy.

"Are they going to hit couch manufacturers? School districts that have canceled physical education?" joked Neil Trautwein, health care lobbyist for the National Retail Federation, which opposes the plan and whose members include fast-food restaurants.

Sugar producers and manufacturers of sweetened foods are opposed, as are dairy farmers and milk processors, since chocolate milk would be hit. Alcohol retailers want to go the opposite way, pushing for a cut in the existing tax on their products. That tax ranges from 21 cents per bottle of wine to 33 cents per six-pack of beer to $2.14 per fifth of hard liquor.

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In an effort to raise money to pay for an overhaul of America's health care system, the Senate Finance Committee is contemplating a tax on alcohol and soft drinks. But the controversial proposal pits some pretty powerful lobbyists against each other: the Corn Refiners Association (the same fine folks who bring us high fructose corn syrup) and the American Beverage Association (not to mention the liquor wholesaler industry) versus the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association.

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