In the past year, taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been passed in places like Mexico and Berkeley. And it is no surprise that proponents of these taxes are already jumping to false conclusions about the effectiveness of these taxes.
Recently, Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition and diet at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, concluded that sales of sugar-sweetened beverages are down in Mexico, therefore supporting his claim that, “[taxation] is the most effective way to change behavior."
But what Popkin fails to mention is that his study – which is not yet published – is that, based on what we do know, it only looks at sales and provides no evidence the tax has helped a single person in Mexico lose weight. That should be no surprise. Studies in Europe show that when taxes are levied on foods or beverages, people tend to switch to lower cost brands or turn to other foods and beverages that have just as many if not more calories than the taxed items.
“The evidence demonstrates that large increases in soda taxes are unlikely to reduce caloric intake," tax expert Jason Fletcher explains.
Economists generally agree that taxes on foods and beverages are unfair as well. Because of the regressive nature of these taxes they negatively impact low-income populations more than they do the overall population.
“Taxing food and drink is unlikely to make the poor slim, but it will certainly ensure they stay poor," writes Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs.
It’s clear that activists like Popkin are neglecting the facts when it comes to the effectiveness of these taxes. In the meantime our member companies are working towards real and lasting solutions. Through our Balance Calories Initiative we have set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. And by helping teach people the importance of balancing what they eat, drink and do, they can find their own way to achieve a balanced lifestyle.