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Calorie Count Blog

Can a Soda Tax Save the Day?


By +Carolyn Richardson on Mar 22, 2011 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

By Carolyn Richardson

President Obama recently told Men’s Health, “There's no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda.” But is he ready to charge parents for it?  The answer may soon be yes.  As debates over state and federal budgets continue to threaten public services, there is growing interest in taxing products that are unhealthy to boost tax revenue.  Just as federal cigarette taxes went from $0.39 cents a pack to $1.01 in 2009, governments are looking to tax unhealthy items in a bid to make up shortfalls and positively affect the public’s health.  The latest mention for trimming state deficits is soda.

The Benefits of a Soda Tax

The Center for Science in the Public Interest just published a new report, that found levying a 7-cent tax per 12-ounce of Coke or Mountain Dew could generate a total of more than $10 billion per year.  Whether it’s done on the state or federal level, the windfall could help cover important programs like health coverage for Americans. Another 2009 CSPI report notes that the $147 billion dollars of medical costs spent on obesity, half of which is paid by Medicare and Medicaid, could decrease in response to the lower consumption of sodas due to the tax. 

A statewide study called Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California, found that of the 24 percent of people who drank one or more sodas a day, 27 percent of them were more likely to be overweight or obese.  A USDA report found that a 20 percent tax could result in a 13 percent reduction in total calorie intake from beverages in adults and 11 percent in children as exposed by this article.

Taking the Cut

While Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as well as Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommended an excise tax on sugary drinks, lawmakers seem to be skittish of the possible public outrage that may result.  But while New York’s Governor Patterson may have received a tough break from tax payers for proposing an 18 percent tax on non-diet sodas in 2009, people in Georgia, where a 4 percent tax has been levied, or the other 32 states that have some form of soda tax, have been largely silent. 

The other risk, according to a recent Huffington Post article is its effects on consumers pockets during the economic downturn.  Susan Neely, head of the American Beverage Association, called the new tax a "money grab, pure and simple," coming at a time when "New Yorkers continue to struggle through a tough economy with double-digit unemployment rates."  But that may just be propaganda from the soda industry who’s top two performers, PepsiCo and Coke already 13 and 24 percent profit margins respectively, for selling beverages that largely contain artificial flavors, water and high fructose corn syrup.

The Political Fallout

Despite a clear advantage to public health and an economic positive for tax revenue and medical expenditure savings, why hasn’t a federal soda tax been levied?  The answer may be a lack of public interest for or against it.  Because of a lack of public involvement on this issue, the political landscape warrants mention of bigger issues such as unemployment and housing.  For this reason, the soda tax will either be levied without public vote, or ignored.  Either way, the negative affect on public health due to excessive soda consumption may very well continue.

Your thoughts....

Should we have a state soda tax?
Vote on Calorie Count's Facebook Fan Page.

If you drink soda, would you stop if it cost more?


For a complete review, read the Health Policy Report, The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, by Kelly Brownell, professor and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, Thomas Frieden, the health commissioner for the city of New York, and others in the New England Journal of Medicine.



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Comments


People need to be responsible for their own actions.  We don't need the government dictating what to drink or when to take a piss.  We need to keep what freedoms we have left.  Government is growing way too big.

If I want to drink a soda, then yes, I would pay the extra 7 cents.



Kyladyrider...Well said. I agree with your comments in whole. Also, nice ride. I ride as well.



Government has to have a say when they are paying for the consequences (e.g. medicaid, medicare, hospital emergency rooms), but even then, only when it is a proven hazard, like soda.  And I think this is better accomplished at the state level, although the only problem with that is that New England, New York, and California will do it, and the levels of obesity are actually exponentially higher in the South.



Absolutely!  Whenever the government gets involved it is bound not to work, anyway - look at making housing more affordable for low income adults which helped propel us into the housing bust.  Or the ethanol goof which reduced feed stores worldwide.  Because of the subsidies, California is becoming a corn belt instead of a hay and other crop belt.  Legislating our soda consumption?  Get real. H



I disagree with government controlling what we do (and for a person with a low income this extra tax could stop them from drinking soda), but at the same time they already tax cigarettes and alcohol so why not other unhealthy products such as soda?  It is a slippery slope when we begin letting economic needs control every aspect of our lives. 



Comment Removed

If they took one dollar out of every high-priced government official and got rid of the crooks in government that are stealing from us, we would have plenty of money. The more we give them, the more they steal from us.



Unfortunately due to the bad education system, the government has to put such measures into place.  A normal, logical person would realize that they should only drink soda seldom and not everyday, 5 times a day.  But nowadays, in this instant gratification society, people either don't realize or don't care that they are drinking on the pounds or guzzling up lots of chemicals.  The average citizen is lacking in self-control and restraint and so the government has to look out for the better good and long-term effects.  I am for this soda tax and hope that it would be better spent on education to curb most of society's ills in one shot, e.g. violence, drugs, unemployment, debt.  I'm not a big soda drinker, but I would spend the extra money if I decided to splurge.



The government isn't telling us how to raise our children. They are simply taxing the foods that cause major health concerns. Over the last 20 years our obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed! Despite the studies urging people to stop consuming simple carbs, high fructose corn syrup, fast food, and processed junk, we still insist on eating them. And as a result Americans are UNHEALTHY! Not only are a majority of Americans overweight and unhealthy but they are draining to our healthcare system. I honestly believe that we should charge more for health insurance if your BMI is over a certain point. If we are going to tax alcohol and cigarettes, both of which we would never willingly give to our children, than we should be taxing candy, fast food, sodas, because we are willingly providing these items to our kids without even considering the consequences! We are slowly teaching our children poor eating habits and the setting them up for failure when they become adults because we have not provided them a good foundation of proper nutrition. Someone needs to step in and do something because obviously leaving the decision to the parents hasn't worked in the past 20 years and I doubt it will work in the future. Having lived overseas in the past, I see where we, Americans, are failing on nutrition and exercise and I refuse to allow my kids to be a victim of such preventable nonsense.



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Totally agree with swissgirl02.

I don't live in the states but I feel the over consumption of carbonated sweetened drinks (be it with sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweetener, what ever) by our children and young people is something that needs addressing wherever you live.

A step in the right direction would be to take out all the vending machine sin schools and replace them with water fountains.



I think the government is in our personal business too much now. They can not take care of our economy as it is. Imposing more taxes is going against what they said during election time. Whether in be on food, drinks , etc. I would continue drinking it if I wanted it bad enough. It is no business of yours whether it be diet or regular soda. Next you know he will impose a tax on water.  Obama has put our nation in such of a outrage and debt that we may never recover. He doesn't know what he is doing and isn't trying to help the AMERICAN people. I personally would like to see what these people that are suggesting these taxes look like. Maybe the just drink too much alcohol! People will look and be what they are. God made everyone in different sizes and shapes and weight. I will be glad when God comes and takes me out of the horrible world. It used to be precious, not no more. The PRESIDENT OBAMA and the government has ruined it for all. Who can we trust? GOD!!!



This is just an excuse to raise revenue and has nothing to do with health.  Want to raise the price of soda? Stop corn subsidies.

Cheap corn = cheap hfcs = cheaper sodas

Support separation of economy and state.



I agree about the tax. I have stopped drinking soda, with the exception of the occasional ginger ale if I have an upset stomach and it has really helped my weight loss progress. But in response to swissgirl02, an increase in insurance according to BMI is not a good idea. Even at my smallest weight, when people said I looked too skinny, according to the BMI I was still overweight. My doctor explained that the real indicator is waist to hip ratio. The BMI is an outdated index from the 19th century, when people in general were shorter, smaller, and had less bone density. That said, I agree that the government has a responsibility to increase the taxes on items that cause them more in the long run. Soda drinkers do have higher rates of obesity, and obesity causes a number of costly medical conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic back pains, arthritis and increases the chances of heart attack and cancer. What is really sad it that people will stop doing something unhealthy to save a buck, but not to add a more healthy years to their lives.



I don't think it is a big deal to tax sodas heavily.  I think it is a good idea- it will encourage people to drink less soda. 



Who else but the government could come up with an idea for increasing a budget which, if the idea works, will actually cause their budget to decrease?  Do you really think the government cares whether you're drinking too much soda?  What they want is YOUR MONEY.  And what's going to happen when people stop drinking soda and they aren't collecting as much in taxes on the soda sales?  By the very nature of this idea, they are COUNTING on Americans to continue to make unhealthy choices to fund their overspending. It's so hypocritical, it's sickening. If tobacco is so horrible, why doesn't the gov't just outlaw it altogether?  Other narcotics are outlawed; why not tobacco? Ask yourself that.  Find out what the gov't collects from tobacco companies and smokers.  People ARE quitting tobacco, which means Mr. Tax Man needs new revenue.  Why don't we ask our politicians to be more circumspect with THEIR budgets, and stay out of ours??



A statewide study called Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California, found that of the 24 percent of people who drank one or more sodas a day, 27 percent of them were more likely to be overweight or obese. 

So 63 percent are not overweight who drink soda?  Why then should they be taxed?  And if that's right, then what you're really asking for is a fat tax - tax only those who are overweigth and drink soda.  The logical connections all point out the absurdity of the whole concept.

Many of those overweight soda drinkers may already be consuming diet sodas - which probably aren't healthy either - but don't add calories and thus are not contributing to the weight problem.

If the government wants to be more effective with their involvement then they should start going after the entire food industry who keep coming up with more artificial ways to make people think they are eating food when in fact much of it is artificial products developed in some lab.

Think people before you put stuff in your mouth just because the package has a pretty design on it, there is a clever ad campaign, and it tastes good.  If you ate real food for a while you'd realize what healthy food should taste like so you could know the difference.  We have all been led down a path of misinformation and poor nutrition because you can't make as much money on real, natural food.  Look at the cost difference between bulk whole oatmeal and any box of cereal.  Convienence comes at a terrible cost.

I have an idea - start taxing parents who don't cook from scratch for their kids and instead feed them fast food.  It is our society that will pay the price in higher health costs.



If they tax soda because it's unhealthy why not an additional tax on everything unhealthy? Does it have salt? Tax it. Hydrogenated fats? Tax it. Fried food? Tax it. Any possibly harmful preservatives? Tax it. Cell phone possibly linked to brain tumors? Add a new tax. And since manufacturing artificial fibers has a negative impact on the environment which in turn can affect health... tax it.

Don't like bland steamed mush 3 meals a day? Too bad big brother knows better. Don't like cooking all of your meals at home? Too bad big brother knows better. Don't feel like ironing all of your 100% cotton clothes? Too bad big brother knows better.

Just think how wonderful life would be if the government told you when to get up - what to eat - how much to eat - how to get to work - what to buy - when to go to bed - what to think. Utopia!!!!



I am all for this.  I'm not a huge soda drinker - but when I want one, I have one and would continue to do so even if it is taxed.  

The same thing has been done w/alcohol in a lot of states. 



YES, TAX THE SODA!!!!  It shouldn't even count as food, let's be real here.

I am all for saving our civil liberties, but come on now.  The government does need to have some control over harmful items.  You wouldn't want everyone running around doing heroin, would you?

Some things just need to be introduced by our government.  No one would ever go green if it wasn't for government encouragement.  And half the items in our food are banned in Europe.  People are not creatures of change, they are creatures of habit, and we want to move forward and not become some backward nation....that will require some direction.

Tax the soda!  We may save the next generation from obesity and disease as well as rescue our economy. 



Original Post by: sksjones

I am all for this.  I'm not a huge soda drinker - but when I want one, I have one and would continue to do so even if it is taxed.  

The same thing has been done w/alcohol in a lot of states. 


That's a little dramatic.

You must love your soda.

Would you fight the same to stop taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, a Big Mac, your 47 inch screen t.v.?  Where do you think the money comes from to run the government?  I'm sure in the same breath you'll complain about not having social security when you're older, or the pot holes in your street that never get filled up.  It's all TAX MONEY.

A lot of these taxes are  imposed by your state, so if you feel so strongly then you should vote in your local election.



Original Post by: eatbugs

If they tax soda because it's unhealthy why not an additional tax on everything unhealthy? Does it have salt? Tax it. Hydrogenated fats? Tax it. Fried food? Tax it. Any possibly harmful preservatives? Tax it. Cell phone possibly linked to brain tumors? Add a new tax. And since manufacturing artificial fibers has a negative impact on the environment which in turn can affect health... tax it.

Don't like bland steamed mush 3 meals a day? Too bad big brother knows better. Don't like cooking all of your meals at home? Too bad big brother knows better. Don't feel like ironing all of your 100% cotton clothes? Too bad big brother knows better.

Just think how wonderful life would be if the government told you when to get up - what to eat - how much to eat - how to get to work - what to buy - when to go to bed - what to think. Utopia!!!!


 

That's a little dramatic.

You must love your soda.

Would you fight the same to stop taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, a Big Mac, your 47 inch screen t.v.?  Where do you think the money comes from to run the government?  I'm sure in the same breath you'll complain about not having social security when you're older, or the pot holes in your street that never get filled up.  It's all TAX MONEY.

A lot of these taxes are  imposed by your state, so if you feel so strongly then you should vote in your local election.



I do not drink soda because I feel they are unhealthy but I absolutely disagree with the government dictating what we are to eat, whether by taxing or any other means they concoct to try and control our lives.  It is none of their business if people want to destroy their bodies with unhealthy foods. This is America where we were founded on FREEDOMS. Freedom to eat what we want is part of our freedom that makes this country great. Lets stop hyper-controlling the masses, just offer the better choices and info for people to make up their own minds.



Original Post by: valoria44

Original Post by: sksjones

I am all for this.  I'm not a huge soda drinker - but when I want one, I have one and would continue to do so even if it is taxed.  

The same thing has been done w/alcohol in a lot of states. 


That's a little dramatic.

You must love your soda.

Would you fight the same to stop taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, a Big Mac, your 47 inch screen t.v.?  Where do you think the money comes from to run the government?  I'm sure in the same breath you'll complain about not having social security when you're older, or the pot holes in your street that never get filled up.  It's all TAX MONEY.

A lot of these taxes are  imposed by your state, so if you feel so strongly then you should vote in your local election.


Sorry, sksjones!! I meant to post this to eatbugs, and i don't see a delete option.  Thanks!



I think a tax on sugary soda is a terrific idea. I would love to have less sugared soda available to my kids away from home. There is none at home and I do not want them to develop a taste for it before they move out of my home.

A tax will not stop anyone with arms that work from picking up that 2 liter bottle of sugary soda or the 42 ounce Thirstbuster (525 calories) and downing it. I would hope that it would allow some people to consider the best use of their money and cut back. Probably it will only help to pay for their Type 2 diabetes insulin and needles in later years.

 



If government feels the need to step in why dont they block the purchase of "unhealthy" items like soda from being purchased with FOOD STAMPS? Now people have the government purchasing their soda for them tax free!

That would be step 1 in my mind. 



Original Post by: devonwalker

If government feels the need to step in why dont they block the purchase of "unhealthy" items like soda from being purchased with FOOD STAMPS? Now people have the government purchasing their soda for them tax free!

That would be step 1 in my mind. 


This is EXACTLY what I was going to comment! If I pay for it, I can damn well consume whatever I want.  The government doesn't pay for anything for me & my family nor  has it ever.  For those getting assistance.....maybe if they had limits and didn't get free cell phones & computers & internet.....they might be a little more motivated to help themselves....hmmmm.....



Tax it. Tax the piss outta it, just like they did with cigerettes, but don't use the tax money to educate people on healthy eating, or address obesity health issues, or create better school lunch programs, use the money for something unrelated, like study the effects of cow flatulence on the ozone. When they taxed the hell out of cigerettes (i was a smoker then) they ear-marked the money for early education programs. And then they tried to change how that money was to be used. Thankfully this was done via referrundum so the change had to be put to the vote and it was knocked down...

I don't think there is a solution to this. No, we don't need the government in our back pockets, but then if parents are putting coke in their kids sippy cups because it's cheaper than juice who is looking out for these kids?



Well then not only have a soda tax but a tax on donuts, cupcakes, cakes, cookies, candy, sugary energy drinks, pop tarts, white bread,etc.

 

While youre at it LOWER the price on healthy foods like fruits, veggies, whole grain breads, juices, sugar free items, etc.

 

However whether this all will work remains to be seen. I think if these requests are met then it will make a slow but viable impact in comparison with just taxing just "soda".

 

Then again raising the price and taxing cigarettes - did that make an impact? I still see people smoking of all ages but I have noticed that all the proper anti-smoking advertisementsi affects a lot of people to make smarter choices and to quit or not start smoking to begin with.

 



I so agree!  There are so many things that the government pays for now and they pay it with TAX money!  The government isn't telling us what to eat.  They are simply trying to nudge us into making better choices.  I am a recovering alcoholic and if I were still drinking, I would pay my last dollar to buy booze.  I stopped smoking 29 years ago and I still consider buying cigarettes when I'm upset.  But you know what stops me?  THE PRICE!  I know that I would not be able to stop before I had spent too much money because I am an addict.  Sugar is also very addictive.  I'm not proposing a tax on THAT by the way!! LOL!  If taxing soda makes even a few hundred people think twice about buying it, think about the health benefits to those people. 

I also agree with stopping the corn subsidies, but first let's stop those OIL subsidies!  How much PROFIT (the money they get to keep after they pay their expenses) do they really need?  I'm off on a tangent....Innocent



I agree that the government shouldn't become too involved in general affairs but the soda companies have taken advantage of regulation free markets to push a product that is bad for you so that they make billions of dollars in profit. 

They are pushing water mixed with sugar, something that your body really doesn't need. Sodas are the definition of empty calories. 

Advertising is unregulated, they push these drinks to babies as soon as they are off the breast and create an 'addiction' for life that only causes obesity.

Maybe the government should step in this time?

 



I think soda is addictive, and people will drink it, regardless of the tax. 

Childhood obesity (not to mention adult obesity!) has become a real problem, and much of it can be traced to the consumption of soft drinks instead of water. 

I heard a story about a New York cab driver who made only one change in his diet to get to a normal weight.  He eliminated soft drinks!

It's a strange concept for government to tax something that is bad for us in order to raise revenue--sort of a mixed message.  If we consume the taxed product, we help raise money for the government, but at the same time the taxed product is not good for us...



If you're going to tax the bad stuff, at least take action on lowering the prices of the healthy stuff. My kids don't drink soda, but I still know how expensive the "healthy" things are opposed to the "not so healthy" items, and He needs to look at the big picture. 



Our company is going the way of BMI in regards to health insurance.  It is also looking at making sure people are taking maintenance medications that should be.  As far as the government taxing soda, people should be allowed to drink what they choose but if their concern is obesity does that mean diet soda will not be taxed since it is not proven to add to weight gain.  Most vending machines in schools are no longer carrying soda but are carrrying juice.



Why not just subsidize tap water filters for homes? People would drink more water if it's more readily available.

It's not that soda is cheap to drink; it's that its cheap ENOUGH to drink. Ever noticed that healthier drinks like juices and water costs way more for a smaller amount?



I'm all for it.  We already have separate liquor and cigarette taxes.  Since it's a product that directly affects the health and well being of Americans (and their use of the public health system: obesity, diabetes, ulcers, acid reflux, etc)  it should be paid for.

Overall, I'm for the abolition of income tax and go through sales tax only.  Get taxed for only what you buy.  I think more money would stay in the pockets of our taxpayers and we'd be healthier overall.



I think people should stop drinking soda completely. It's gross and unhealthy the amount of soda people drink each day. On the other hand, let people drink as much soda as they like and die off. Maybe the world wouldn't be so overpopulated if people just died sooner from their unhealthy habits.



How about taxing caffeine in general. Coffee and soda and other caffeine rich drinks/foods should be taxed because caffeine is a drug/ just like alcohol and nicotine.



@mewlkitten:

I find your comments absolutely disgusting. Killing off those with diabetes? Are you serious?

Not only is your comment completely completely lacking in ethics, it's also based on no logic. Do have any idea how many resources a diabetic death uses up? Do you have any idea how much money an obesity-related death uses up?



I'd be OK with the tax as long as the money that resulted from it was used to educate people how to live healthier lives. Sadly a single cent most likely WON'T be used for that purpose. On the other hand this just reminds me that all of our freedoms and civil liberties won't be taken away all at once - they'll be pecked at and taken away slowly over the course of generations so we feel like we had a choice in the matter. 



not my coffee!!!



this is stupid.... it's the parent's responsibility to ensure their kids know proper nutrition habits and learn to make better food choices... not the government. pathetic.. people should start taking responsability over their crappy habits



Taxing for soda.  How about taxing all the companies that are in cahoots with the government who advertise soda as healthy in the first place.  Start at the source of the problem not mask it with tax



YES! Not my cawfee! It's expensive enough as it is!

 



Ah, I kind of had a thought like this years ago.  I'm not from the states, but have been trying to eat healthy as much as possible.  Unfortunately on my limited budget it's not always easy.  I sometimes wish that they would tax the unhealthy food and then apply that extra tax money to producing the healthier food and making it a little bit cheaper for us to buy in stores...

It's just a dream... but it's a nice dream.



Original Post by: kyladyrider

People need to be responsible for their own actions.  We don't need the government dictating what to drink or when to take a piss.  We need to keep what freedoms we have left.  Government is growing way too big.

If I want to drink a soda, then yes, I would pay the extra 7 cents.


Im not sure they are saying when and were you have to do your drinking. IF you want to drink a soda drive to the storea nd buy one. But what i dont want is to be paying for some obese person to get all there medical needs meet and still drink this posion at no cost to them. I am a 24 year old female that is decently healthy, i work full time and pay all my bills and taxes but yet i cant even afford to go to the doctor for a checkup. Maybe i should just get so fat that i can have the american population pay for me to kill meself too



Why oh why do people keep harping on the misguided notion that eating healthy is more expensive than junk food eating?  Since when does a glass of plain water cost more than a can of soda?  Nor does a head of lettuce cost more than a bag of potato chips.  A package of oatmeal is ten times cheaper than a box of sugary cereal and will last five times longer.  There is no reason in the world why anyone can not eat a reasonably healthy diet at a reasonable cost....or at least no more than they may be paying for junk food.  Bite for bite, most healthy food is much cheaper than unhealthy food.  Too many people just don't want to take the time to figure it out.



Original Post by: rose1943

Why oh why do people keep harping on the misguided notion that eating healthy is more expensive than junk food eating?  Since when does a glass of plain water cost more than a can of soda?  Nor does a head of lettuce cost more than a bag of potato chips.  A package of oatmeal is ten times cheaper than a box of sugary cereal and will last five times longer.  There is no reason in the world why anyone can not eat a reasonably healthy diet at a reasonable cost....or at least no more than they may be paying for junk food.  Bite for bite, most healthy food is much cheaper than unhealthy food.  Too many people just don't want to take the time to figure it out.


Take it from someone who within the last few months switched her diet to a healthier one.  It has in fact cost me quite a bit more.  i went from eating my 50 cent pizza pop for lunch to eating a salad where I need to buy many different ingredients.  So now, where a two dollar box of pizza pops fed me lunch for a whole week I need to buy lettuce and tomatos and mushrooms and various other salad foods. 

I've also replaced my handful of tortilla chips and shredded cheese and have now started to eat more meat for protein, which does in fact cost more.

Perhaps it depends on the lifestyle though.  Even when I was eating unhealthy I wasn't buying pop and chips or sugary cereals... but I still wasn't eating in a healthy way.



Can anyone say tea-party?  I wonder about the governor deciding not to tax diet pop.  My kidney specialist told me the chemicals in diet pop are actually worse for me than just drinking regular.  I actually was glad to hear it.  Can't stand the stuff.  So what about that?



I'm pretty sure in Canada (at least in Ontario) things like KD, pop, chips, frozen pizzas/entres/fries/fast food/etc/etc is all taxed. The only things at the grocery store that aren't taxed are fresh produce, seafood and fresh meat.. so, I don't really get what the big huff and puff about this is all about?



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