In a letter to the editor published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Alison Patient, chairwoman for the West Virginia Beverage Association, reminds us why adding more taxes to beverages won’t end obesity.
West Virginia has had a soda tax since 1951 and it has had no beneficial impact on public health. “In fact, our state’s obesity rate has risen at the same time we have had a soda tax – from 14 percent to 36 percent since 1990,” Patient says.
Beverages make up just 6 percent of the calories in the American diet. Focusing on this one product alone and ignoring the 94 percent of calories we get from food makes no sense. Even though soda consumption has decreased steadily since 1999, obesity rates continued to rise. Taxing beverages creates a financial burden for low-income families and small businesses, and the record shows it does not solve the complex problem of obesity.
Many nutritionists say the better way forward is to do the hard work of helping people change the behaviors that can lead to obesity. America’s beverage companies are committed to doing that. We are working to drive a reduction in the sugar and calories consumers get from beverages by using our innovation and marketing know-how to get people to try more lower- and no-calorie beverage options. We’re providing more no-sugar options than ever before, as well as smaller portion sizes. We are also putting prominent calorie counts on the front of every bottle and can we sell. We are committed to helping consumers maintain their balance for true and lasting change.
“West Virginia’s beverage makers are committed to playing a role in improving public health because we, too, want a strong, healthy West Virginia,” says Patient.