With all of the recent news about taxes, it’s important to remember that despite what advocates say, taxes won’t make anyone healthier. In a recent CNN article, two professors explain why.
Professor Lusk, the head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, said, “previous research on this topic suggests that such taxes will probably have small effects on consumption of taxed beverages and that people will simply substitute other high-calorie, non-taxed beverages and foods.” It’s common sense - if a person can no longer afford to buy a product, they’ll substitute it with another. So, taxes may lower beverage consumption, “[b]ut that's different than saying sugar-sweetened beverage taxes reduce caloric intake.”
Additionally, Lusk notes that "[t]here's also literature showing these taxes tend to be regressive, affecting lower-income households more than higher-income households.” We’ve seen how these taxes unfairly hit working families in places like Cook County and Philly. Families see their grocery bills rise and local businesses running on tight margins find they must cut jobs to keep the doors open.
Jason M. Fletcher, a professor of public affairs and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, had similar findings when reviewing taxes. “In our own work, we find support for substitution effects in the US, where higher taxes on soda lead to two effects: (1) less consumption of soda and (2) more consumption of other high-calorie drinks," Fletcher said. "Combining these effects can lead to no increase in health."
Instead of advocating for taxes that will not improve public health and will raise food prices on working families, we should seek to provide consumers with information on how to best maintain a balanced diet and give them the food and beverage choices to do so. That’s why America’s leading beverage companies are doing their part through the Balance Calories Initiative. We are increasing access to beverages with less sugar or no sugar at all and smaller proportions—in stores and restaurants down the street and across the country. We’re also putting our collective marketing expertise behind these efforts to make finding balance a little easier.
For more information about Balance Calories, visit BalanceUS.org.