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Would a Soda Tax Help Fight the Fat?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
With the increase in obesity rates among young people and adults, policy makers are always looking for ways to discourage the excess consumption of unhealthy foods. One idea that's getting been getting attention in recent months is food taxes. According to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine, "Even if one quarter of the calories consumed from sugared beverages are replaced by other food, the decrease in consumption would lead to an estimated reduction of 8000 calories per person per year ó slightly more than 2 lb each year for the average person."

Two states (Maine and New York) had proposed large taxes on sugary beverages like soda and energy drinks (a penny per ounce). Both proposals have since been dropped due to industry and voter opposition. But proponents could be onto something: studies show that increasing consumption of these kinds of drinks increases the risk of diabetes and obesity. Reduced consumption of these drinks appears to improve overall health.

To get an idea of how big the problem is, consider these statistics: In the past decade, per capita intake of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages has increased by nearly 30%. For each extra can or glass of sugared beverage consumed per day, the likelihood of a child's becoming obese increases by 60%.

Similar taxes on tobacco products have proved successful in reducing consumption. And as the price of carbonated soft drinks goes up, people tend to buy less. There are a lot of variables associated with doing something like this. It's hard to know if people would switch to drinking water, milk, or perhaps just a generic version of their favorite sugary soda. And what would this extra tax revenue go towards? It's likely to get more support if the revenue funds programs that promote physical activity and better nutrition. But at this point, it's unclear exactly how the money would be used.

What do you think? Are you surprised the proposals in Maine and New York have been struck down? Is a tax like this a good idea to help improve the health of our country, or should we find another way?

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DARKLING56, I just noticed what you wrote. In Ontario, where I live, we actually kinda have this system. We pay federal and provincial taxes on all goods and services - which is pretty much anything you can think of. BUT, if you are buying fresh produce, meat, or dairy products (ie. milk), you don't pay tax on it! (You also don't pay taxes on kid's clothes, but that doesn't make my point.)

While it doesn't always deter from buying the processed stuff (which is taxed), it is a total incentive to buying fresh and making things yourself! It's cheaper to begin with and the tax savings is a bonus! Buying unprocessed food is the rebellious Canadian's way of sticking it to the man. Haha... Report
I'm a Canuck, so my opinion is moot, but I'll toss in my two cents anyway. And I mean that literally. I would gladly pay a soda tax.

The price of soda is marked up astronomically to begin with -- based on the cost of the syrup and carbonated water and people pay that anyway. Would you really notice a small increase? Probably not. And that unnoticeable amount of money from your pocket could add up to some big social funding when 300+ million people are drinking their sweet treat. Does that make me a socialist? Well, that's a whole other issue!

Addressing the real question: I don't think that the tax would do anything to curb people buying the stuff they love, even if it is bad for them (think alcohol, gas, cigarettes....) People love their vices! Report
No. We don't need any more taxes. Report
So I initially started writing a comment and it got so long, I decided to make it a blog post. Feel free to stop by and read it. Hereís the link although youíll have to paste and copy it into your browser since there is no way to post active links here -

In summary, I explain a couple of the various sides that I picture with this argument. Due to the possible long term affects on individuals and families I believe someone will get hurt in the long run. Plus, I can see how this will just add to the momentum the government is gaining to take more and more of our dollar from us. Report
Reduce ALL Federal Govt spending, and do NOT approve new taxes on ANYTHING. Report
Once you start a tax like this, the government gets used to the extra money and it will be around for good. If anyone wishes to start a website to host a fight against this proposed tax, I own , , , and and you can find out more by visiting any of these names. Thanks and keep up the fight to stop this tax! Report
Unpopular opinion:

Funny... no one cares when they hike tax on tabacco anymore... as a smoker who does not drink soda (all my life) or eat from the drive thru (for the past 8 years)... I guess I'd say you'll all get used to it too. It was only a matter of time till they got to something that everyone would actually care about - I thought it would be beer that went to $5 a bottle. Cynical? Yup. Notice I'm still a smoker - the taxes didn't help me quit. Report
Politicians can say whatever they want, and find info somewhere to back it's just another way to take money out of our pocketbooks...I wish they would stop using these ploys to obtain their may make a small difference, but it's the wrong approach. Report
Hey, LASPOSA2BE! This probably has to do with where we live. I live in Satellite Beach, Florida, and while our local Publix doesn't stock stevia, it DOES stock Truvia (mainstream label stevia) right by the Equal, Splenda, and Sweet 'n Low! I use it; it's great for a lot of things. Report
come on brainiacs, you can do better than this. Is this what we've come to, taxing freakin cokes. How about worrying about something a little more important like saving jobs,homes,etc. We make our own choices and if we choose to eat things that aren't healthy then we pay the consequences. But don't try to make the choice for them. just making sure, but the united states is still a democracy right? althought that is arguable. Report
The usual banter I see. Alcohol is taxed pretty heavily. Look it up. Varies from state to state on how extreme. There are also additional taxes at the register in some states. Itís an interesting racket on how those bottles and such get tax stamped. Again: look it up.

All these Regressive Tax ideas seem great until you watch them cause undo inflation for literally everything you purchase. They will not impact people of even moderate means. Like many, I recall when some things cost less than now. But over time if they go up, I just pay and keep moving. Zero deterrent for everything from smoking to power consumption here. The poor will suffer for it. You will help pay for it one way or the other. User or not.

You cannot succeed with taxing people into changing. If the tax was extreme you might see a serious change (like say $1 an OZ on sugary drinks), but the proposed taxes are never extreme. Political suicide is not something most legislatures want to commit.

Obesity and soda? Not the most significant factor overall. I've avoided the heck out of them for over 15 years and it didnt play as much of a roll as my slave labor work schedules, lack of vacation time, poor health benefits, poor food choices "on the go", lack of affordable fresh produce (and variety I might add), constant bombardment of advertisements, food choices pawned off as healthy that are actually worse for you, etc etc etc. Iíve noticed this has been the case for many of my brethren. We moved away from the Mountain Dew and saw little impact.

Before you willingly decide to choose whatís right for everyone else, really stop and consider what impact these sorts of things have. Most of the people who have drafted these things were not stopping at Soda. They specifically had an inclusion list of "sugary beverages" that included things like juices and milk more often than not.

Head down this path and you will be taxed to death. Imagine paying another 25% or more every time you go to the grocery store. They will lose revenue, inflate their prices to cover the loss, rinse and repeat until a breaking point is reached. Itís happened with other things. States that tax some foods as junk food already saw this problem. Sure they get taxes, but people at the store had less money to spend on real food and would not forgo those tasty treats.

Plus, just like those wonderful cigarette taxes: The money does not go into health care. Itís consumed by other portions of the budget before it ever gets there. And when they get a taste for the money, they will want more. When usage drops from taxation they will move on to something else, ďFor your own good.Ē
I live in New York, and if that tax on soda was to be realized, those on food stamps won't be paying it. You see, when groceries are rung up at the store and a food stamp card is scanned, the taxes and bottle deposit are automatically deducted and the food stamp recipient pays only for the food. Same goes for taxes on candy. Report
DARKLING56, i really hope your being sarcastic. If not I have a book to recommend that you might enjoy. It's called Mein Kampf. Report
I think that all processed foods should be taxed. Not just this item or that item. Tax all processed items. If its not all natural, tax it. That will affect everyone and may force a significant number of people to shop the perimeters of the grocery and avoid the inner aisles. Tax microwave popcorn, lowfat mayo, artifical butter substiutes, white rice and all of it.

But then offer rebates for fresh and flash frozen fruits and veggies, raw meat, and whole grain/wheat breads.

I don't think taxing soda will stop people from buying and drinking soda, because we already buy it with the 5 cents bottle deposit on it. Besides, in these times, they shouldn't be adding taxes on anything because people are having enough trouble finacially. Report
Good grief! Taxing soda.... what next? Report
A soda tax will HELP the FAT . .That is . .the increase monies for the state by using a vile and despicable ploy as well as segregating people. Thin people may become angry that they have to pay tax for what is considered a 'luxury' ! There are other ways to for the state to increase monies other than taxing a soda pop or a plastic bag!

It is a very cruel tax! Report
I'm not sure that a tax will do the trick. I HATE watching people pay for soda, candy bars, and all-out junk with their Vision card and then opening a separate shopping order to pay for their cigarettes. Somehow they have enough money to pay for their cigarettes, but not their groceries. I am all about helping people who are down and out, but first off, why should I have to pay for their junk food, and secondly don't waste my money helping people so that they will have enough money to buy their cigarettes. If we tax junk foods, will they become the cigarettes of the food stamp world or will my tax dollars just go to paying these extra taxes? Report
I'm not opposed to the idea of a tax. We tax cigarettes, and those taxes keep rising, at least in part, to deter people from smoking. There are so many studies showing how lower-income families are more likely to be obese because of the cheapness of sodas. Maybe subsidize water and healthy drink options (get some GD unsweetened ice tea please!) and tax the unhealthy stuff. Report
oh my gosh. we are going to get taxed on everything. why are polititions using our food now to tax us. I think this is rediculous! Report
No Way! The taxes on tobacco products keep rising and yet people still buy the stuff that kills them and others. The price of food is not a deciding factor for most people. For example, oatmeal is much cheaper than cereal and yet people eat tons of cereal. Water is free, but people pay good money for all kinds of beverages. Report
The goverment tell us too much what to do. Let the rich and the richer pay for their own health care and live off of SS just like the rest of us has too. No MORE TAXES. Report
I do not hink it would... it has not wiped out smoking at about $6.00 a pack, I don't think it would stop people from having what they want. Report
Personally, I think that we need to take more responsibility for our own decisions. We are not overweight because there are companies who make sodas or restauraunts who offer large portion sizes and calorie-laden foods. We are overweight as a result of our own decisions to consume these products in an unsafe manner. Anything that can be used can also be abused. Everything in moderation! Increased taxes that penalize those who purchase these items, either wisely or unwisely, or regulations that penalize the manufacturerers of "unhealthy" products are not the answer to the growing obesity epidemic. The answer is personal responsibility and accountability. Report
As a Canadian I think that this is a good idea in places where health care is paid for by the government.
Here 2L of pop is 2x cheaper than 2L of milk and it shouldn't be.
The extra revenue should go to the health care system. We know that people who don't eat properly are more likely to have health problems and if they chose to drink more soda, then more money goes to the hospital which works- the people who are paying these taxes are the ones who will use it more often.
This is also why I have no problem with the taxes on cigarettes being raised. Report
That is so ridiculous. Soda is not making people fat. Yeah, maybe helped but look at the tax on cigarettes. It's just gone up and people are still killing themselves by smoking. Report
This is an excuse for another tax. It will lead to one kind of loss only-of profits by companies which in turn lead to more lay offs and less money in the economic system. DUH! Yeah, sure government, make people spend LESS that is the way out of the economic down turn! Report
NY Governor Patterson has called his proposed tax on regular soda an "obesity tax" which I find highly offensive.. not because I am obese or because I drink soda, I don't. Upon reading a little further into his new tax proposals there is also a new tax on gym and health club memberships. A little hypocritical?? Lets call it what it really is - just another way to squeeze a few more dollers out of already overtaxed people. Report
This is nothing but a slippery slope. When the got this taxe they would find something else they thought they could get money from and it is just more goverment control over what we have the right and the responsibility to control. There are plenty of "boys" out there that want more of your money and more control over everything they can control, don't give them another inch, we are getting further and further from being the land of the free. I gave it up because of how bad it was and I didn't need someone in goverment trying to control me. Report
If the government actually cared about people not being fat, they wouldn't be subsidizing the corn and sugar and soybean industry. This is just a way to suck money out of people's pockets without actually hitting the root of the problem - allowing products to contain harmful ingredients.

Soda could be sweetened with Stevia, a leaf that is 100 times sweeter than sugar but contains zero calories - but no, that would kill the sugar industry and the government wouldn't want that which is why they make stevia be labled a "nutritional suplement" and it can't be sold along side sugar.

No instead, the government says it's ok to sweeten with things like Splenda which contains chlorine - making it toxic to the cardiovascular system. Awesome work big government. Report
I really don't think it would make a difference. If people want pop...they'll pay for pop. Report
I say why not? The government has already imposed higher taxes on things they deem as unhealthy (cigarettes). Just as there are no redeeming qualities or nutritional value to cigarettes, the same applies to soda. I think it's just a matter of time before something like this happens, and I won't be suprised when I hear about it. But they'll continue to guzzle their precious alcohol at all costs. I digress.
Here's an idea, how about making the supplies that the fast food chains need to make their crappy food so expensive through taxation, that their prices will go up and people will be encouraged ( if not economicly forced) to eat healthier at home. Report
I personally don't think a soda tax would work. What would we tax next? Higher tax on fast food? Restaurant taxes? Potato chips? Not sure how you would get out of the grocery store trying to figure out all the different taxes. People have to want to make a change before they will. Report
Did the cigarette tax stop smokers from smoking? I think not!!!! Report
Taxing soda is not going to solve anything! as people stated whoever wants it will pay for it no matter what and besides that what's a 200 calorie soda compared to a 1200 calorie cheeseburger! I highly doubt this would stop obesity!! Report
When I was still a smoker, these taxes used to drive me crazy. "If I want to kill myself that's up to me," that was my attitude. I was very offended by any of these excuses to tax people. I've changed my mind though, and I'll tell you why.

I've noticed the huge strain that the newest cig taxes has put on all sorts of people (not just the poor). They are quitting in droves which is great. My Dad, a smoker since he was about 10 yrs old, is trying to quit, and I never thought that would happen. I will agree with these taxes IF they include alcohol too (funny how the govt never wants to tax that isn't it? I bet more second-hand deaths are caused by alcohol, not to mention the emotional damage inflicted on others), and IF the government takes action to stop this garbage from getting into the market.

If the garbage food like soda were not filled with chemicals (remember the Coke chrome uses?) that are damaging everyone that touches them, then I would feel differently about the taxes, but the govt is allowing these companies to make fast money by selling addictive and poisonous (aspartame anyone? Google it if you don't believe me) products to consumers. If the taxes will keep anyone from consuming these products, then I am all for it. In a weird way, this tax is helping people make healthier choices. And the government should subsidize clean, organic, healthy fruits and vegetables and stop rewarding these companies for making crap. That would include fast food and most processed foods.

Sorry--I am an aspartame victim and this sort of thing ticks me off to no end. Report
If people want sugar, they'll pay for it just like they pay for all their other addictions! Taxing it won't stop it but it will make it harder for families of modest income to purchase these health-killers for their children and it will also stuff the pockets of an already-over-bloated government coffers without actually tacking the ROOT of the sugar addiction problem. Report
At least 40% of any processed food on grocery shelves contains high fructose corn syrup (including sodas). What outrages me is that hfcs is already cheap to produce, but the government subsidizes it so it's even cheaper for the food industry to use. While healthy foods tend to cost more, I believe the government should either stop subsidizing hfcs and put more funds to nutritionally beneficial foods, or tax foods that use hfcs and again contribute more towards good and nutritious foods. Report
I agree with everything that VOIX.MAGIQUE wrote for her comment..instead of raising taxes on the bad things, how about just lowering the prices on the things that I body actually needs and I am sure every person on sparkpeople are buying or trying to get in the habit of buying every week. Report
How about instead of taxing sodas or other sugary drinks, make all-natural 100% juices a little less expensive? Heck, why not even make fresh fruits and vegetables cost less! Maybe then obesity would be less of an issue, because people could afford to eat healthier! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why poorer communities tend to have more health/weight issues- it's because unhealthy food choices are more affordable.

The only way I would agree that taxing sugary beverages would be a good idea was if it meant that fresh produce and other healthy items would be less expensive. Then I'd say bring it on. Report
One question comes to mind after reading every ones comment...its ok to tax cigarettes and upper class people but not soda? I hope if your one of the people saying no to taxing soda your also saying no to other ridiculouse taxes and vote accordingly. Report
Are You Kiddin' Me? NO NO NO . The Government has no right !! Report
I, for one, do not believe that we need the government telling us what to put in our bodies. What about personal accountability? One should not be penalized for what one eats. What's next? A tax on any food that has a fat and/or sugar content over a certain amount? I mean, come on people!! Report
I don't think it would work. Taking cigarettes hasn't gotten people to quit smoking. It's just one more way for the government to try and get money. Report
If it was truly because of health issues, I don't know how I would feel about it. I will never believe it is about anything but more revenue for the government. Too many people quitting smoking, need a new revenue stream. Report
Oh come on. It was a hypothetical question. Even I got ridiculous with it. Isn't the critical question why we are so attached to drinking stuff that rots our teeth, destroys our pancreatic functioning and makes us whimper about being overweight? Just Don't Drink It. Vote with your wallet! Report
I never thought of that Report
I don't think that it's a good idea to tax beverages. I wish they did not tax food. Report
BIG BROTHER!!!!! Report
I think ALL sugary items should be taxed in addition to soda. Someone said in one of the comments that it doesn't impact them because they don't drink soda. Well, it DOES impact you and everyone in America. The govt. spends so much money on health/medical care, much of which people could prevent if they weren't unhealthy or overweight. Health insurance across the board is higher now because Americans are so unhealthy. Why should my taxes or health premiums go toward someone else's medical when I am taking care of myself so I don't have to get surgery or take expensive medicine? It is win-win situation. If you still eat unhealthy foods, you are paying the extra $ that is going to cover your medical because you will need that extra care. If it deters some from purchasing, they reap the benefits from being healthier. No one is saying what to buy or what not to buy. Buy what you want. I know all of my health concerns went away after I lost 85 pounds, as did my mother's high blood pressure when she lost weight. Report
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