Americans think soda taxes are a bad idea which is why tax proposals have been rejected 43 times since 2008. In a piece for The Hill, American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely breaks down why these taxes continue to be so unpopular across the country.
Neely says the reason people adamantly oppose soda taxes is simple. “People recognize soda taxes for what they are: a government money grab that is borne on the backs of the poorest Americans, costing jobs and harming small businesses.”
By their very nature, soda taxes are some of the most regressive taxes governments can impose. This is because low-income people are forced to spend a far greater share of their limited incomes to pay the tax than more affluent people. It is simply unfair to place a greater burden on those struggling the most.
People also understand that politicians do not just stop with one tax. Neely writes, “People also know that a tax on any item on their grocery list is a slippery slope. This time it may be soda, but what’s next?”
Tax advocates tell us time and time again that soda taxes will improve public health, but the fact is there is no evidence to back up these claims. In reality, facts tell us the opposite is true.
“Federal government data from the CDC shows obesity has been going up steadily for years even though soda consumption has been going down steadily,” says Neely. “It defies logic to say soda is causing the nation’s obesity epidemic when the less we drink the more obese we get.”
It has been established by science that obesity and obesity-related diseases have a variety of risk factors, including genetics, a lack of physical activity and the over consumption of calories from any source. “Suggesting that eliminating one source of calories is the panacea to reducing obesity is misleading and unfair to people who are trying achieve and maintain a healthy weight,” writes Neely.
Instead of singling out one set of calories, we should focus on the overall diet to truly have an impact on obesity and other public health challenges. We must also give people the tools they need to make the choice that is right for them. Neely says America’s beverage companies have been leading the way on this.
“We are providing consumers with more choices, smaller portion sizes and fewer calories than ever before. And these ferocious competitors are putting competition aside and working together on a bold, unprecedented initiative to cut calories and sugar intake in the American diet. The Balance Calories Initiative, supported by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, will have a real and meaningful impact on communities across the nation.”
Neely says, “collaboration and education are the better way forward.” Instead of pursuing regressive and unfair taxes, government, industry and the health community should work together to achieve meaningful and lasting solutions.