We read with interest--but not surprise-- the latest comments from scholars concluding that taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages would have little effect on obesity rates.
“We were hoping we could highlight an easy, low-cost way of reducing obesity for a lot of people. But we didn’t find evidence that soda taxes will do that,’’ said Jason Fletcher, Ph.D., an associate professor at the School of Public health at Yale University and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar (2010-2012).
His comments are posted on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) website in an article about how scholars who’ve received foundation funding debate whether soda taxes help reduce childhood obesity in articles published recently in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
The article notes that the Fletcher team, which also included David Frisvold, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at Emory University and foundation scholar (2006-2008), and Nathan Tefft, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at Bates College, found that “there are few compelling studies than can explicitly make a causal claim for a connection between soda consumption and obesity.”
And it says Fletcher “doesn’t think there is a silver tax policy bullet that would reach a large number of people, is relatively easy to implement, and is affordable that would significantly reverse the rise of obesity.”
For us here at Sip & Savor, these comments come as no surprise. They echo our thoughts that soda taxes won’t work to address obesity. Comprehensive solutions like teaching people the importance of balancing calories consumed from all foods and beverages with those expended through physical activity and exercise is key to maintaining a healthy weight. But, these RWJF researchers aren’t alone. Their views are shared by many others.
A review by George Mason University researchers showed that a 20 percent tax on soda would reduce an obese person’s Body Mass Index by .02 -- an amount not even measurable on a bathroom scale.
In an April 2011 article published in The CATO Institute’s Regulation magazine, Jonathan Klick, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Eric A. Helland, an economics professor at Claremont McKenna College, discredit claims that a soda tax would be effective for addressing obesity and increasing revenue for government.