Despite zero evidence that taxing common grocery items improves public health, some continue to advance the false notion that a regressive and unfair levy is the answer to our nation’s obesity crisis. In a letter to the editor published in The Baltimore Sun, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association executive vice president Ellen Valentino explains why taxes are not a solution to the real societal challenge of obesity.
Valentino points to West Virginia and Arkansas, states with longstanding soda taxes, as proof that taxes have no impact on obesity rates. In fact, “they all rank among the highest when it comes to obesity rates,” says Valentino.
The outcome is no different in other countries that have tried taxes. “Denmark and Finland abandoned their taxes on foods and beverages with sugar, salt and fat when they found they do not work to improve health,” wrote Valentino. And in Mexico, a tax has resulted in a reduction of only 4.9 calories per day out of a diet of more than 3,000 calories, Valentino added.
Valentino notes that “calories we get from sugar in beverages has been dropping steadily, down 39 percent since 2000, while at the same time obesity rates have been climbing, 30.5 percent in 2000 to 37.7 percent in 2013-14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” She also points out that beverages account for only 6 percent of the calories in the American diet.
Clearly we aren’t going to address obesity by focusing on such a small portion of the calories Americans consume. Valentino says what does work is, “Government and industry and public health working together to inform people of the calories in beverages and all foods for that matter and giving them options when it comes to beverages — low and no calorie options and smaller portions — to make the right choices for their family.”
This is exactly what America’s beverage companies have been hard at work doing. We are offering more options with less sugar than ever before. We are engaging with prominent public health and community organizations to do the hard work of changing behavior. And we are giving people the encouragement and information to help them cut back on calories and sugar they get from beverages.
To learn more about how we are helping people achieve balance visit www.balanceus.org.