“Like bears to honey or zombies to brains, politicians find something irresistible about soda taxes.” That line was published in 2009 in a Washington Post opinion-editorial titled “Five Myths about Sin Taxes on Soda.” It was true then, and it’s true today. No matter how often soda taxes fail to pass in cities and states around the country, some politicians keep going after that irresistible pot of honey.
The mantra is always the same: taxing soda will reduce consumption and make people healthier. Problem is there’s no evidence that soda taxes can fix the obesity epidemic in America. After all, if a tax could make you thin, wouldn’t we all line up to vote “yes?” Getting taxed seems so much easier than the alternative – diet and exercise.
A soda tax is a political solution to a medical problem.
The Yale School for Public Health finds little evidence that taxing soda results in lower BMI.
“[A] 6-calorie reduction in soda consumption is accompanied by an 8-calorie increase in milk consumption and a 2-calorie increase in juice and juice drink consumption. That is, any obesity-related benefit of decreased soda consumption that comes from a soda tax is, on average, more than offset by increased caloric consumption from other beverages.”
Politicians who want to tax soda know the real goal isn’t to reduce consumption, it’s to raise revenue. Here are a couple of quick facts to consider, next time you hear a politician support a soda tax.There’s been a 23 percent reduction in average calories per serving in our beverages since 1998. Sales of regular soft drinks declined by 12.5 percent from 1999-2010. Yet, obesity rates continued to rise at the same time. Soda clearly isn’t driving obesity. According to a National Cancer Institute analysis of government data, sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 7 percent of calories in the average Americans’ daily calories. That means 93 percent are from other foods and beverages.
You’d have to be a zombie to find the logic in taxing soda.