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Soft drink tax gaining momentum

Soft drinks
Soft drinks
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Soft drinks could one day be taxed much like cigarettes and alcohol if certain lawmakers have their way, according to a Yahoo News article published on June 5, 2014.

Sugar is increasingly blamed for health problems ranging from diabetes to obesity to tooth decay. The relationship between sugar and health problems has been known for some time, but sugar is now back in the spotlight and is quickly becoming the target of dieticians and others who view it as addictive and the cause of many health woes.

The solution? In the minds of many health experts, economists, and others, the answer is the introduction of a new tax. The added tax could be based on calories and/or sugar content and would serve as a deterrent to consumer purchases. A study by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics concluded that a tax of about .04 cents per calorie, or about 6 cents per 12 oz. can of sugar- enhanced soft drink, would be enough to discourage consumer purchases and save each individual about 5,800 calories per year.

Some states have already attempted to tax soft drinks, but few have had much success. Massachusetts is the most recent example. Lawmakers proposed an extension of the state sales tax to include sugary soft drinks and candy, but it failed to get much attention. Florida had similar problems with its approach, which restricted food stamp recipients from buying sugary foods and junk food. Industry lobbyists attacked the plan and it was ultimately laid to rest.

The state of California is trying something a little different and has already made some headway. The California Senate has already passed the Sugar- Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act, a measure that would require warning labels on all beverages with more than 75 calories per 12 oz. serving. The labels would read:

State of California Safety Warning: Drinking Beverages with Added Sugar(s) contributes to Obesity, Diabetes, and Tooth Decay.

California lawmakers do not see the warnings as anything radical. They do, after all, point out something known to be true- that sugar contributes to many health problems. Still, there will be pressure from soft drink manufacturers and others who oppose the warnings because it could ultimately lead to reduced sales. Parents generally support the idea because, with a warning label, they would know at a glance whether a beverage contained excess amounts of sugar. The labels grab your attention, remove the guesswork, and eliminate the need for research.

With elevated levels of obesity and increases in diabetes and other public health issues, sugar will continue to be attacked as one of the many causes of society’s ills. Don’t expect the debate to be settled anytime soon- legislators and others are likely to continue introducing measures and industry lobbyists and their allies will continue to fight them every step of the way. It’s a matter of business vs. public health and the industries that produce these sugary drinks are not going down without a fight.