The evidence is clear – taxes on common beverages do not change behavior or make people healthier, yet we continue to be told the opposite. William Shugart, research director at the Independent Institute and a professor at Utah State University, and Josh T. Smith, a master’s student in economics at Utah State University, explain in an opinion piece why the supposed benefits of soda taxes are nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
In their piece published in the Orange County Register, Shugart and Smith point out that politicians often make the case for soda taxes by promising the public that the revenue will fund public health initiatives. “Unfortunately, those claims are dubious at best,” write Shugart and Smith. “The money flowing into government coffers often are redirected to something other than what was originally promised — a successful bait-and-switch strategy that politicians use all the time.”
Worse, soda taxes are one of the most regressive forms of taxation that can be imposed. The authors cite a study published in American Journal of Agricultural Economics, which found that soda taxes “harm low-income households the most.”
One of the many reasons soda taxes are ineffective is that singling out one source of calories is shortsighted, simplistic and will not improve public health. Shugart and Smith say this is because people will just substitute the taxed calories with another source of calories. The study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics “predicted that the tax would help low-income people lose just 0.7 kilograms — one kilogram is a little more than two pounds — over 10 years,” according to Shugart and Smith.
As with any challenge, obesity and obesity-related diseases require comprehensive efforts that lead to behavior change, not a Band-Aid approach that won’t make a difference. That’s just common sense.
America’s beverage companies are doing the hard work of driving behavior change and we’re doing it in some of the highest-need communities in the nation, like the Mississippi Delta and rural Alabama. By providing more low- and no-calorie beverage options than ever before, along with information and encouragement, we are helping people cut back on calories and sugar. These are the comprehensive steps necessary to bring about the true and lasting change that improves the health of individuals and communities.
Find out even more about how America’s beverage companies are helping people manage their calorie and sugar intake from beverages at www.balanceus.org.