Attempts to pass soda taxes have failed pretty much everywhere they have been tried. The reason is simple: the public opposes taxes on common grocery items, as many opinion polls show.
Now comes Louisiana, where some lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would place a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to address obesity. New Orleans grocery shopper Katie Herbert didn’t get it.
"I do believe obesity needs a lot of attention, but to attack sugar and sugary drinks, to me I don't think that's where it should go," said Herbert to News 10.
In other words, as they say in the Deep South, that dog won’t hunt. That’s because beverage calories make up only a small portion (about 6 percent according to government data) of the total calories the average American consumes in a day, and sugar-sweetened beverages are not a unique driver of obesity. To address obesity, we have to look at the entire diet – as well as physical activity. Hiking prices on soda is not going to do it.
In Louisiana’s case, lawmakers claim that the funds raised from the tax would go towards obesity prevention programs.
"To fund those programs and place a tax just on sugar, when sugar consumption has gone down in the U.S. since 1970, is an inappropriate way to do it,” says the American Sugar Cane League. “It's about nutrition and balancing your lifestyle and taking a holistic approach to what we eat and how active we are."
John Peterson, co-founder of the Lafayette-based artisanal soda company Swamp Pop, agrees.
"Our sodas are meant to be savored. They're for times spent relaxing on the porch," Petersen, whose company makes flavors like praline cream and filé root beer, told the Times-Picayune newspaper.
"As a society, we generally understand with food what items should be enjoyed in moderation and what items are staples of our diet.”
We at Sip & Savor agree. Obesity is a complex issue that requires real and lasting solutions. That’s why just last year America’s leading beverage companies partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to reduce beverage calorie in the American diet. With our Balance Calories Initiative, we have set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. We will work aggressively toward this goal by providing more low- and no-calorie options along with smaller portion sizes, while also providing calorie awareness and informing people about the importance of balancing what they eat and drink with what they do.
Click here to learn more about how the beverage industry is delivering for its customers, consumers and communities. And visit YourCartYourChoice.com for more information on why beverage taxes are a misguided and ineffective policy.