In a recent article on Reason.com, Baylen Linnekin asks if a discriminatory tax on a common grocery item really provides any benefits. Linnekin breaks down the public health activists’ claims that a tax on beverages like soda, sports drinks and juice drinks will improve public health.
“Even absent taxes, reducing soda consumption hasn't dented America's obesity problem. Soda consumption has fallen in the United States by 25 percent since the 1990s. But data suggests Americans are as obese as ever. That means people drank far less soda even as obesity rates continued to rise,” writes Linnekin.
Besides having no positive impact on public health, soda taxes are regressive – they take a greater proportion of income from the poor than the rich. As seen in the case of Mexico's one-peso per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, “The higher cost of the excise tax policy fell on the lowest incomes groups,” according to a November 2015 study by the Center for Economic Studies at the College of Mexico.
If a beverage tax doesn’t improve public health, Linnekin wonders if “it could evolve into taxes on foods that are high in carbs. If organic food is somehow better than cheaper competitors, governments may choose to tax non-organic foods.”
The evidence-free claims in favor of soda taxes could apply to anything on store shelves, opening consumers up to new taxes on foods and drinks every time government needs more money. Where will they stop? There’s no telling. To learn more about why soda taxes do not work visit The Truth About Beverage Taxes.