A couple of senators committed pop comedy Friday during the Revenue Committee’s hearing on a proposal to end the sales tax exemption on soft drinks.
As Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery introduced LB 447, Sen. Tom Hansen of North Platte noted his colleague’s voice sounded a little raspy and suggested Avery might need something to wet his whistle. Hansen reached under the table and produced a half-empty, two-liter bottle of root beer.
Later, Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont excused himself from the hearing, came back in a few minutes and loudly cracked open a can of pop while someone was testifying against the bill. Both gags got some laughter.
But beneath the effervescence lurked some heavy statistics about obesity in Nebraska.
Dr. Adi Pour, health director for Douglas County, testified that 28 percent of Nebraska adults are obese. The percentage is closer to one-third for youth in Douglas County. Unless our waistlines stop expanding, nearly six in 10 of us will be clinically obese by 2030.
Given links between excessive weight and heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and cancer, the issue isn’t so easy to laugh off.
A recent analysis by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts Nebraska will spend $3.35 billion annually on weight-related health problems if the obesity rate continues to climb as projected. But if Nebraskans could reduce their body mass index (BMI) by just 5-percent, the state could save close to $3.7 billion in the next 20 years.