Why Soda Tax Is Not So Sweet


Is taxing soda and other sweetened beverages a good idea to combat obesity? 25 states which already have such a tax think it is, but new research is suggesting that the effort may spur only a minimal amount of weight loss. A recently published study examined the impact of 20 and 40 percent taxes on soda sales and the subsequent effect on weight loss. They found that most people simply choose another equally as sweet beverage, meaning that calorie intake is not diminished and little actual weight loss occurs.

The results of this study are a blow to the pro-tax movement, who see this tax a step in the right direction towards curtailing the rising obesity rates. Sugary beverages (carbonated and non-carbonated) are one of the reasons that 60% of the population are overweight and obese, and represent roughly 9% of total daily calories on average. Also, sodas are often marketed to children and adolescents, which put it on the list of culprits in the childhood obesity problem. Plus, the consumption of soda is likely to displace other, more healthy, beverages from their diets, such as milk and water. Ultimately, the over-consumption of refined sugars is directly linked to obesity, diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

Certainly, a case has been made that the continued over-consumption of sugar has health effects akin to alcohol and tobacco. Both alcohol and cigarettes are taxed in the interest of public health and generating revenue. Studies have shown that the most recent tax hike on cigarettes has reduced the amount of smokers, possibly a tax on soda can greatly reduce the amount of habitual soda drinkers?

The other issue here is money; the tax will generate a projected 1.5 billion dollars in state revenue. This is a large number, but is unlikely to be felt in your individual wallets; it amounts to a 5 cent increase in price on a 12 ounce can of soda.

Critics of such a tax say that it is a tax unfairly levied on poorer Americans. That such a tax will affect the pocketbooks of those in lower income households more, as they have less money and consume more sugary beverages…and this is true. Certainly a tax such as this will have less impact on the rich, but those who are in lower socioeconomic classes also have greater rates of obesity than their counterparts in higher socioeconomic classes. The lower socioeconomic classes would also be more likely to benefit by more aggressive public health measures put into place with revenue generated by the tax.

In the meantime, steer clear of sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and sweetened iced teas in favor of what comes out of your faucet: water. You’ll be making yourself healthier and if such a tax comes to your state, you won’t even notice.

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