It’s hard to understand why some lawmakers believe a beverage tax will reduce obesity rates when one looks at the facts. It’s also clear that a tax on common grocery items like soda is not popular with Americans: more than 30 proposed soda taxes have failed in recent years.
So why do some politicians and members of the public health community keep trying to persuade people that food and beverage taxes are the solution to the complex issue of obesity? Maybe because they are searching for easy answers.
Journalist Caroline Scott-Thomas points out in an article on FoodNavigator.com that the public health community has gotten nutrition wrong before. She writes that the previous U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to cut saturated fat led to the low-fat craze that unintentionally may have made public health worse.
Countries in Europe, which has experimented with using taxes to change the way people eat, recently revoked some taxes on foods because there was no evidence the taxes improved public health.
“Food is not a single product but a complex bundle of goods with many substitutes, making it challenging to predict how consumers will alter their buying behavior in response not only to the taxed good, but especially with respect to other related goods,” a European Union report stated.
“There are as yet no robust conclusions on the impact of food taxes on public health.”
Taxes are just not the answer. When it comes down to it, it’s all about education – knowing how to balance all calories consumed with physical activity. Politicians should help educate Americans about balance rather than slapping discriminatory taxes on common grocery items if they really want real solutions that will have a lasting impact.