SACRAMENTO (AP) -- California would be the first state in the nation to bar school soda sales to elementary students if Gov. Gray Davis signs a bill passed by the state Senate Thursday.
The bill by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, also restricts sales of the drinks at junior high schools. She called it a step to improve the diets of students and reduce the number of overweight children.
Davis hasn't taken a position on the measure, said spokesman Russ Lopez.
The California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that supports the bill, says more than 26 percent of California children are overweight. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites poor diet, including consumption of sugary carbonated beverages, as a main reason for the increasing number of obese children.
The bill would allow elementary schools to serve students only milk, water and juice drinks that are at least half fruit and have no added sweeteners. Junior highs and middle schools could offer those beverages and electrolyte-replacing sports drinks during school hours.
Students could still bring sodas to school from home or buy them at after- and before-school events at junior high and middle schools.
Current California law includes a ban on sodas at elementary and middle schools that's scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. But that prohibition won't kick in unless the schools get additional state funding for nutrition programs, and that money hasn't been appropriated.
Ortiz's bill isn't contingent on the schools getting additional money and would take effect next July 1.
"There's no justification for schools selling products that don't meet the highest nutritional standards for our kids," Ortiz said Thursday as the Senate voted 22-14 to approve Assembly amendments to the bill, sending it to Davis.
"Kids learn not only from what we tell them but from what we sell them."
When it was initially approved by the Senate in May, the bill also included restrictions on sodas at high schools, starting in 2005, but that language was dropped in the Assembly Health Committee.
On the Net: Read the bill, SB677, at www.senate.ca.gov