Will consumers make healthier beverage
choices if the cost of soda increases?
A new federal tax on soda and other sugary beverages has been suggested recently as a way to pay for part of the major overhaul of the U.S. health-care system proposed by the Obama administration.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based watchdog group that pressures food companies to make healthier products, plans to propose a federal excise tax on soda, certain fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and ready-to-drink teas. It would not include most diet beverages."
Supporters argue that the tax would have multiple benefits. In addition to partially funding health-care reform, supporters argue that a tax on sugary beverages would likely discourage their consumption, potentially relieving some of the burden on taxpayers covering the medical costs incurred because of overweight and obesity.
Addressing these issues, a recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine reports, "For each extra can or glass of sugared beverage consumed per day, the likelihood of a child’s becoming obese increases by 60 percent," and that "a review conducted by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity suggested that for every 10 percent increase in price, consumption decreases by 7.8 percent."
Finally, the article states that "The contribution of unhealthful diets to health care costs is already high and is increasing — an estimated $79 billion is spent annually for overweight and obesity alone — and approximately half of these costs are paid by Medicare and Medicaid, at taxpayers’ expense. Diet-related diseases also cost society in terms of decreased work productivity, increased absenteeism, poorer school performance, and reduced fitness on the part of military recruits, among other negative effects."
The same Wall Street Journal article notes that "The main beverage lobby that represents Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and other companies said such a tax would unfairly hit lower-income Americans and wouldn't deter consumption.
'Taxes are not going to teach our children how to have a healthy lifestyle,' said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association. Instead, the association says it's backing programs that limit sugary beverage consumption in schools."
What do you think of a tax on sugary beverages? Would you support it?