Mike Gibney, a professor of food and health at University College Dublin, breaks down the fallacy of beverage taxes as a solution to obesity in a piece for the Irish Times. He says there is simply no evidence that taxes are effective, and in fact, evidence points to their ineffectiveness.
Gibney points out that the average Irish adult consumes a minor 35 calories a day from sugar-sweetened beverages. “If the increased tax on the fizzy drink consumer reduces caloric intake by 35 per day, will they lose weight?” asks Gibney “No they won’t. That’s just not how the body works.”
So why then do governments want to impose ineffective taxes on the public? “We are taxing such carbonated soft drinks because it is a global fashion built on dubious science and popular prejudice,” says Gibney.
Besides having no impact on obesity, Gibney says taxes result in real harm because they allow policymakers “off the hook of really tackling obesity through long-term investment in an agency with some independence that can make inroads into our weight crisis.”
Singling out one item in the grocery cart will not make anyone healthier. Rather, government and industry must work together on comprehensive solutions rooted in education and collaboration.
As Gibney observes, “Single-issue solutions are cheap, easy and populist options, and in the long term will be of no help to us.”